There had been some rumblings that Texas A&M was trying to make a run at Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko for the open DC position on Jimbo Fisher’s first staff with the Aggies. Those overtures have apparently been fended off by Notre Dame according to Pete Sampson of 247Sports.
Here’s the meat of what Sampson reported after speaking exclusively with Brian Kelly.
“If you’re looking at the defensive coordinators that are out there today and you look at what they’re being paid, it’s ridiculous,” Kelly said. “The money is crazy and the length of contracts that are being thrown at you. You look at it that way, you’re probably going to catch somebody’s eye early on in the process, and I’m not saying that it happened or it didn’t happen, you can put two and two together.”
Texas A&M wanting Elko on its staff shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Mike Elko took over a Notre Dame defense that was the butt of jokes for the last three years and turned it into a respectable unit in just one season. For much of the year, that defense was actually much more than respectable. It flashed signs of being a ball hawking, game changing defense actually. Notre Dame’s late season fall off hit the defense just as it did the rest of the team though and just a bit of the luster fell off.
Even with a late season dropoff, the Notre Dame defense has shown signs of having a direction – a positive one – for the first time in years under the first year of Mike Elko’s guidance. Elko did that with a defensive line that was lacking depth and had to rely on a pair of true freshman in the two-deep on the interior of the line – the last place a defense would ideally rely on frosh.
While Elko’s impact was certainly felt on the field, it was felt even more on the recruiting trail where his relentless pursuit on the recruiting trail helped Notre Dame net one of the best defensive hauls in the early signing period that Notre Dame has seen in years. Notre Dame hauled in impact players at all three levels including a secondary that has the chance to be one of the best landed by Notre Dame since the years of Lou Holtz should the Irish ink Julius Irvin or Noah Boykin at the traditional Signing Day in February.
Keeping Elko on staff is obviously huge for Notre Dame and Brian Kelly. Having continuity on the staff a year after a total overhaul should provide the Irish with the kind of stability that could lead to Notre Dame improving on this year’s nine win regular season. Elko was perhaps the biggest positive of last season’s overhaul along with Strength & Conditioning Coordinator Matt Balis.
Notre Dame’s defense could be even better next year with the return of Elkoe and additions of Alohi Gilman, who was ineligible to play this year after transferring from Navy, as well as some impact incoming freshmen Derrik Allen and Houston Griffith. The big wild cards, however, remain Tevon Coney and Jerry Tillery who are both said to be considering their NFL futures. Their decisions will have a big impact on how much improvement we see from the Irish defense next fall.
For now, knowing that Elko will be back after Texas A&M reportedly made a run at him is a good start.