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Mike Elston Staying At Notre Dame Is A Huge Win For Marcus Freeman

Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston staying in South Bend was a coup for new Irish coach Marcus Freeman

Yesterday began with a great deal of uncertainty for the Notre Dame football program, which began the day without a head coach and was at risk of losing many of the coaches that helped create such a stable program and were responsible for building an elite recruiting class.

By the end of the night we learned that Marcus Freeman had been offered the head coaching job - which he accepted - and the top assistants on the staff announced they were staying in South Bend.

The biggest surprise of all the announcement was arguably defensive line coach Mike Elston announcing on Twitter that he was staying at Notre Dame and not following Brian Kelly to LSU. Elston had spent the previous 18 seasons as part of Kelly's staff, going all the way back to Central Michigan (2004-06). It was assumed by some that he would again follow Kelly to LSU to run his defense for a lot of money, but Elston decided to stay "home."

Over the next couple of days I'll address the importance of Freeman retaining coaches like offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, corners coach Mike Mickens, running backs coach Lance Taylor and safeties coach Chris O'Leary along with strength coach Matt Balis. The ability for Freeman to retain Elston was as big, if not bigger, than all of those other decisions, including Balis staying to continue running an elite strength program.

It has yet to be announced if Elston will remain as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator or if he'll get promoted to defensive coordinator, but whatever his role ends up being it was vital that he remain if the Irish wanted a smooth transition into the Freeman era.

There are obvious reasons why keeping Elston is important, like the dominant defensive lines he has developed, his strong work on the recruiting trail and his passion for Notre Dame. Those reasons, important as they are, aren't the primary reason that keeping Elston was so important for Freeman.

During his Notre Dame tenure - which spans 12 years - Elston has worn many hats. He's coached the defensive line and linebackers, he's been the recruiting coordinator, special teams coordinator and was the assistant head coach from 2018-20. Elston served that same role in 2009 while at Cincinnati.

If you look at all the things Elston has been asked to do at Notre Dame, many of those tasks involve much of the administrative duties that also get handled by a head coach.

Freeman is 35 years old and is taking over the Notre Dame program despite having no previous experience as a head coach. Elston hasn't been a head coach either, but for the last 12 years he was the right-hand man for the previous head coach, and Elston knows very well the landmines and pitfalls that await Freeman as he transitions into his new role.

Having a veteran coach like Elston, someone who knows the ins and outs of Notre Dame as well as anyone, will ultimately be a tremendous asset to Freeman and will make his transition much, much smoother.

Of course, having a coach who can do all that while also coaching the defensive line at a high level and dominating on the recruiting trail doesn't hurt either!

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