Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to hire Mike Elko as its defensive coordinator. Elko helped build Wake Forest into the 20th-ranked scoring defense in college football this season.
Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to hire Mike Elko as its new defensive coordinator, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Elko comes to the Fighting Irish from Wake Forest, where he has served as defensive coordinator for the past three seasons and developed into one of the country’s most respected defensive minds.
Wake Forest ranked No. 20 in scoring defense this season under Elko, as the Demon Deacons improved to 6–6 and clinched the program’s first bowl bid since 2011. Elko’s defense provided the backbone of coach Dave Clawson’s rebuild at Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacons improved from back-to-back 3–9 seasons despite having the nation’s 121st-ranked offense this year.
Elko emerged as one of the hottest defensive coordinator prospects this season, as he received interest from multiple Power 5 programs for his services. He’s expected to sign a multi-year offer with Notre Dame, which went 4–8 under Brian Kelly this season.
Elko was Notre Dame’s top target in its defensive coordinator search. The Fighting Irish also gave serious consideration to linebackers coach Mike Elston.
Elko is a key fixture in an off-season staff overhaul at Notre Dame. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford already left to take the head coaching job at Western Kentucky, and the Irish will part ways with tight ends coach Scott Booker, according to multiple reports.
Elko, 39, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and has extensive history with Clawson, coaching with him at Fordham (2002–03), Richmond (2004–05), Bowling Green (2009–13) and for the past three seasons at Wake Forest.
Elko’s defensive hallmarks include multiple, concept-driven packages that lend to an aggressive style. He is a no-nonsense coach who has built a reputation as he climbed the ladder for having a strong rapport with his players, being a relentless motivator and building high-energy defenses. Opposing coaches note Elko’s penchant for forcing offenses away from their strengths and being most aggressive in attacking weak areas. In 2012 and 2013, Elko's defenses at Bowling Green finished in the top 10 nationally in both scoring defense and total defense.
Notre Dame finished No. 62 in scoring defense this year (27.8), No. 45 in total defense (378.8) and No. 102 in turnovers gained (14).