Notre Dame Football: Will Mike Elston Be Next Defensive Coordinator?

By Jeff Merritt
Matt Cashore-USA Today Sports

When the announcement was made that Bob Diaco was to be named the head football coach of the University of Connecticut, there was a mixed reaction on the Notre Dame campus and among the many fans of the football program.

It did not come as a surprise because Diaco has been hailed as one of the top assistants in the country over the past few years.  He is a solid coach, he is charismatic and he is a very good  recruiter. These are all qualities that are sought after in a head coach.

That said, some Irish fans welcomed his departure, believing that a change was needed given the disappointing performance of his defense in the 2012 National Championship game and the disappointing performance of his defense this past season, despite all of the injuries Diaco had to contend with.

With Diaco now gone, questions abound as to his successor. Brian Kelly has been mum on the subject. Kerry Cooks will serve as the interim defensive coordinator during the Pinstripe Bowl. However, some speculate that the next defensive coordinator for the Irish will be Mike Elston.

Elston was rumored to be named the defensive coordinator for Diaco at Connecticut. Then, there was an about-face and reports from South Bend indicated that Elston would remain on the staff. He and Kelly both confirmed the reports later.

Elston is a trusted assistant who has worked with Kelly since 2005, including one stint as the co-defensive coordinator while at Central Michigan. He is a very popular, respected coach on the staff and is also an outstanding recruiter. All of his coaching experience has been on the defensive side of the ball.

Kelly has stated that it is important for the program to have continuity, and assuaging Elston’s desire for growth as a coach would ensure that, not to mention it may be an important move if Kelly wants to keep Stephon Tuitt for one more season at Notre Dame.

The problem with this move is where does this leave Cooks? He is another rising star in the world of assistant coaches. One can conceivably see a situation where Cooks and Elston may serve as co-defensive coordinators, or Cooks may be given some other role within the staff where he has added responsibilities.

It is very important for Kelly to make a choice relatively soon with Tuitt’s important decision and signing day on the horizon. Elston seems to be a likely and sound choice for the program moving forward, but one that will not wow the Irish faithful.

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