Notre Dame hires Wake Forest’s Elko as defensive coordinator

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame has hired Mike Elko as its defensive coordinator, hoping he can turn around a unit that struggled at the beginning of last season and was blamed in part for a down year for the Fighting Irish.

Elko has spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest after two years at Bowling Green. The former Ivy League safety at Penn had the Demon Deacons’ defense ranked in the top 20 of the Football Bowl Subdivision in fumbles recovered (third), turnovers forced (10th), sacks (12th), defensive TDs (17th), red zone defense (17th) and scoring defense (20th).

Brian VanGorder was fired as defensive coordinator on Sept. 25, the day after a 38-35 loss to Duke dropped Notre Dame to 1-3 in what ended up being a 4-8 season. The Irish were ranked 103rd out of 128 teams in total defense at the time, giving up 456 yards a game. Things improved after coach Brian Kelly simplified the defensive schemes, but the Irish still surrendered more than 30 points six times.

“Mike has consistently coordinated defenses 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 Tuesday. “This rare combination of consistent 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 coordinators across the country.”

Elko thanked Wake Forest, but said he was looking forward to joining Notre Dame and competing for a national championship.

“We hope to dictate the pace of the game with an attacking and aggressive style of defense, mix physicality and toughness with exceptional fundamentals and, lastly, play with great effort at all times,” he said.

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