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This Guy Coaches Notre Dame Football: Mike Elston, Defensive Line & Associate Head Coach

Anchor of the coaching staff.

mike elston notre dame coach
Mike Elston
Mike Miller/One Foot Down

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a solid coaching staff for 2019, and we want to talk about them all. One Foot Down’s coach profile series will take a look at every single one of them, and hopefully we all learn a little bit more about these guys, and Notre Dame’s chances for the upcoming season.

Mike Elston, Associate Head Coach & Defensive Line

Mike Elston has steadily made himself one of the best assistant coaches the Irish have had in a long time. Strange that we have given this former linebacker for the Michigan Wolverines such love — but all of it is deserving.

His loyalty and dedication to the program is only bested by his loyalty and dedication to his family. Elston has created a family atmosphere for his players along with his wife Beth (and those legendary cookies). I even remember Kurt Hinish taking one of Mike’s 3 daughters to a father-daughter dance as Mike was away recruiting (pretty sure that’s how the story goes).

More than anything though, Mike Elston is an excellent coach. His Irish defensive lines have often times been one of the stronger units for a program that struggled for many years. Notre Dame’s defensive line recruiting has been as good as it’s ever been since the Holtz era — and maybe even better in some ways. The Irish are legitimately 3 deep at both defensive ends, but... we will get more into that shortly,

Mike Elston has developed this defensive line like a father raises a family. I wish he was an uncle [realizes he is only 4 years older than me] my cousin.

mike elston notre dame football recruiting
Mike Elston
Mike Miller/One Foot Down

Path To Notre Dame

Elston has been the very definition of “lifelong assistant” thus far despite goals of being a head coach someday. He’s been a Tri-State Warrior (not to be confused with the Trine Thunder) and has done all of his coaching in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

After his playing career for Michigan, Elston stayed in Ann Arbor for four years working up from intern to defensive grad assistant for the outside linebackers. Elston then took the short drive down Washtenaw Avenue to coch the defensive line for the Eastern Michigan Eagles (#truEMU).

For Elston’s partnership with Brian Kelly after his 3 years in Ypsilanti, I’ll direct you to Tim Prister’s excellent piece on Mike from this past June.

Key Stats

Two of Elston’s years in South Bend saw him as the linebackers coach instead of the defensive line. Those years were in 2015 and 2016 with Brian VanGorder as defensive coordinator. There was a drastic difference in defensive line play.

  • 2016 DL combined for 3 sacks and 23.5 TFLs.
  • 2018 DL combined for 23.5 sacks and 43.5 TFLs.

Here’s another eye-popping stat:

  • Notre Dame is 22-4 since the 4-8 2016 season.

Elston probably doesn’t get enough credit for the turnaround in South Bend. He has been instrumental with the move towards Kelly 3.0, and the changes made to make this a better program. You should make a toast to Elston tonight at your local watering hole.

Job for 2019

Eat your dessert Mike. As far as the defensive ends are concerned, Elton has this position group LOADED with a legit 3-deep. Julian Okwara headlines the bunch with Khalid Kareem primed for a great year on the other side. Backing them up is Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji. At defensive tackle, Elston does have to replace Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner, but a healthy rotation of guys like Kurt Hinish, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Jayson Ademilola, and Jacob Lacey should be very productive.

The job? Get after it and dig in!

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