Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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"Mike has consistently coordinated de- fenses that keep the points down, negate big plays, create negative plays, excel in the red zone and, quite simply, force opposing offenses to execute at an extremely high level to move the football," Kelly said in a statement. "This rare combination of consis- tent success in those facets of defense, along with a proven ability to develop talent and fit it into his system, really places Mike in a class by himself among defensive coordina- tors across the country. "As importantly, Mike's commitment to helping young men reach their full poten- tial in the classroom and in the community make him a perfect fit for Notre Dame." Elko's hire ended a coordinator search that ultimately began when Kelly fired the embattled Brian VanGorder after the team's embarrassing 38-35 loss to Duke Sept. 24. The Irish promoted defensive analyst Greg Hudson to defensive coordinator for the remainder of the season, but the move was never considered permanent. Linebackers coach Mike Elston, a long- time assistant under Kelly in various roles, interviewed for the defensive coordinator job after the season. Though Elston did not get the job, he is expected to stay on the staff in his current role — which includes recruiting coordinator duties — while Elko will coach the safeties. Elston also assisted Hudson significantly in 2016. VanGorder, a longtime friend and coach- ing colleague of Kelly's, ran an NFL-style defense that was often criticized for its com- plexity. The Irish were 88th nationally in turnovers gained, 96th in rushing defense, 98th in yards allowed per play, 101st in scor- ing defense, 103rd in total defense, 111th in pass efficiency defense and 114th in tackles for loss per game when he was dismissed. Notre Dame then finished 45th in total defense (378.8 yards allowed per game) and 60th in scoring defense (27.8 points allowed per game) during the team's 4-8 finish. Elko's name was rumored for the opening almost immediately after VanGorder was let go. His defenses at Wake Forest — even with significantly less talent — drew na- tional attention. "It was extremely hard to walk away from everything we built at Wake Forest, espe- cially with those players, and I'm so appre- ciative of everything that [Wake Forest head coach] Dave Clawson and [Wake Forest ath- letic director] Ron Wellman did for me and my family," Elko said in a statement. In Elko, Notre Dame gets a defensive co- ordinator that has risen in the profession under Clawson. In his third year with the Demon Deacons in 2016, the Atlantic Coast Conference program finished tied for 20th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 21.8 points per game. Wake Forest also fin- ished tied for 39th in total defense, allowing 370.1 yards per game. At Wake Forest, Elko installed his 4-2-5 base defense, which utilizes a rover. The scheme takes advantage of hybrid players that can rush the passer and drop into cov- erage. The two linebacker spots are desig- nated "Buck" and "Mike." Elko, a 1999 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, played safety for the Quak- ers. His position coach was Todd Orlando, THE BIG FIX Notre Dame tabs Mike Elko as defensive coordinator The 39-year-old Elko has 12 years of experience as a defensive coordinator. PHOTO BY BRIAN WESTERHOLT, SPORTS ON FILM BY MATT JONES N otre Dame head coach Brian Kelly went outside his comfort zone in an effort to fix his team's defense. In perhaps the most important hire Kelly will make at Notre Dame, he has put his faith in Mike Elko. Elko, who spent the past three seasons as Wake Forest's defensive coordinator, has accepted the same position at Notre Dame. Notre Dame officially announced the hiring of the 39-year-old Elko on Dec. 20. FEBRUARY 2017 23

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