Mike Elston

Mike Elston Named Notre Dame Football Recruiting Coordinator/Linebackers Coach

March 2, 2015

Mike Elston, a member of the University of Notre Dame football coaching staff since 2010 and the Irish defensive line coach the last five years, has been promoted to recruiting coordinator. Elston, who has worked with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly since 2004, also will coach the Irish linebackers in 2015.

A former linebacker at the University of Michigan and linebackers coach at Central Michigan University in 2006, Elston also oversaw the Notre Dame special teams units in 2010 and 2011.

Elston aided in the mentorship of numerous young Irish defensive linemen in 2014, including freshmen Jay Hayes, Daniel Cage, Andrew Trumbetti and Grant Blankenship–all four of whom played significantly as rookies. He also has played a critical role in the development of senior captain Sheldon Day, who enters 2015 as one of the top defensive linemen in the nation.

Elston developed Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III into second- and third-round National Football League Draft picks (2014), respectively. They marked the first tandem of Notre Dame defensive linemen to be chosen in the top three rounds of the same draft since 1997. Tuitt finished his Irish career with 21.5 sacks to rank tied for third in school history.

Elston also played a significant role in Kapron Lewis-Moore’s growth into a sixth-round NFL Draft selection in 2013. Lewis-Moore likely would have been drafted much higher had he not suffered a torn ACL in the 2013 Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.

Injuries ravaged the Irish defensive line in 2013. The trio of Day, Nix III and Tuitt were on the field together for only 23 plays over Notre Dame’s final 10 games of the season. Chase Hounshell and Tony Springmann both suffered season-ending injuries. Elston then turned his focus to then-sophomore Jarron Jones, freshman Isaac Rochell and senior Kona Schwenke. That trio collected 39 of its combined 53 tackles on the year over the season’s final four games.

Elston led a defensive line in 2012 that helped permit only four rushing touchdowns (the first did not come until the eighth game of the season). The Irish led the Football Bowl Subdivision in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed. Tuitt and Nix III qualified as the first set of Notre Dame defensive linemen to earn All-America status in the same season since 1989. The Irish held eight different opponents to under 100 yards rushing, and no FBS school held more BCS automatic-qualifying schools to sub-100 yard rushing games than Notre Dame. The Irish limited their foes to 3.47 yards per rush to rank 17th in the FBS. Notre Dame had not completed a season with a lower yards -allowed-per-rush figure since 2004 when Notre Dame permitted 2.7 yards per carry.

Under Elston’s tutelage George Atkinson III ranked 19th in the nation in kickoff return average at 26.1 and was a key reason the Irish kick returns moved from 75th in the NCAA in 2010 to 36th in 2011. Kicker David Ruffer converted more point-after attempts without a miss in 2011 than anyone in Notre Dame history (47 of 47).

In his first season at Notre Dame in 2010 Elston helped turn around the Irish defense as well as coordinating special-teams efforts that included an All-America-caliber placekicker. The defensive line aided the Irish efforts in holding opponents to 4.0 yards per carry in 2010, almost a yard fewer than the ’09 Irish defense permitted. Ruffer became one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, presented annually to college football’s top kicker. He converted his first 18 field-goal attempts in 2010 before missing his final kick of the season, snapping his school-record streak for consecutive made field goals in a season (18) and career (23).

Elston predominantly coached defensive line over the last 11 years, including stops at Eastern Michigan University (2001-03), Central Michigan University (2004-06) and the University of Cincinnati (2007-09), in addition to Notre Dame. He also worked as the special teams coordinator with the Chippewas and Bearcats. Elston was one of Cincinnati’s top recruiters and served as the Bearcats’ lead recruiter in the state of Florida.

In 2009 Elston was promoted to assistant head coach at Cincinnati and also coached the Bearcats’ defensive line while coordinating the special teams. In his first season as Cincinnati’s defensive line coach, Elston replaced all of his starters from the previous season while helping to implement a new defensive scheme.

The results became an attacking defensive front that limited its opponents to 3.6 rushing yards per carry and helped lead Cincinnati’s defense to the third-most tackles for loss and 10th-most sacks in the nation. The Bearcats’ defensive line combined for 57 tackles for losses and 25.5 of the team’s 37 sacks that season. Elston’s line alone averaged more sacks per game than 63 FBS teams (including Notre Dame) in 2009.

Ricardo Mathews and Alex Daniels, two first-year starters at defensive end, led the Bearcats in 2009. Mathews received second-team all-BIG EAST Conference honors and led Cincinnati with 12.5 tackles for loss. Daniels paced the defensive line with 56 tackles and led the team with 8.5 sacks.

Elston served as special teams coordinator in 2009 for the third straight season and helped Mardy Gilyard earn the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year. Gilyard averaged 30.5 yards on 42 kickoff returns and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He also averaged 12.6 yards on 16 punt returns including one punt return for TD.

Elston’s kickoff return unit ranked second in the nation, averaging 28.5 yards per kickoff return, as only three schools returned more kickoffs for TDs than Cincinnati’s three. His punt return unit averaged 13.0 yards per return to rank 17th in the nation.

Jake Rogers in 2009 replaced Kevin Huber, the most decorated punter in Cincinnati history. Rogers landed 15 of 43 punts inside the 20 and recorded eight punts of at least 50 yards. He also doubled as the kickoff specialist and boomed 23 touchbacks on 92 kickoffs.

Under Elston’s direction, Huber won notice as the first-team punter on the Associated Press All-America team in 2007 and 2008. Huber was also tabbed a first-team All-American in 2008 by the American Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association of America. He ranked seventh in the nation, averaging 45.0 yards per punt, and helped the Bearcats lead the nation in net punting at 41.5 yards. Cincinnati became only the fourth team in FBS history to lead the nation in net punting in consecutive seasons. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Huber in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Gilyard also was named BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year in 2008 after leading the BIG EAST and ranking 11th nationally by averaging 27.6 yards on 36 kickoff returns. Gilyard returned two kickoffs for TDs, the first a 97-yarder at Oklahoma and the second for 100 yards at West Virginia.

In 2007 Huber claimed recognition as a consensus All-American and recipient of the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year award after he led the nation by averaging 46.9 yards per punt. Huber also helped the Bearcats rank first in the nation in net punting at 39.6 yards.

Prior to his stint at Cincinnati Elston coached under Kelly at Central Michigan University where he helped the Chippewas in a variety of roles. In 2006 Elston served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach and instructed two all-Mid-American Conference linebackers, including the top tackler in the league. Elston’s work with special teams sparked a drastic improvement in the punting unit, which finished 19th nationally in net punting.

Elston spent the 2005 season as the Central Michigan co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. He helped develop a unit that led the Mid-American Conference in rushing defense, allowing 113.7 yards per game–a major improvement for a team that ranked last in the MAC in rushing defense two years earlier. Elston worked directly with defensive end Dan Bazuin who led the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss and tied a MAC record with 16 sacks.

The first full-time assistant coaching job for Elston came at Eastern Michigan University. He doubled as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator his final two years. Elston helped the Eagles record the most improved defense in Division I-A in both scoring and total yards allowed in 2003. He began his tenure at Eastern Michigan as the defensive ends coach in 2001.

Elston gained his first taste of coaching as a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan, his alma mater. He worked with the Wolverines from 1999-2000 and helped Michigan to a combined 19-5 record during that time. Prior to becoming a graduate assistant he served as an assistant to the football camp director at Michigan from 1997-98.

Elston lettered for the Wolverines as an outside linebacker from 1994-96. Michigan finished in the top 20 each year, and he helped the Wolverines to a combined 25-12 record in those three seasons.

The Denbrock File

Year School/Franchise Assignment
2015 Notre Dame Recruiting Coordinator/Linebackers
2014 Notre Dame Defensive Line (8-5, Music City Bowl champion)
2013 Notre Dame Defensive Line (9-4, Pinstripe Bowl champion)
2012 Notre Dame Defensive Line (12-1, BCS National Championship Game)
2011 Notre Dame Defensive Line/Special Teams Coordinator (8-5, Champs Sports Bowl)
2010 Notre Dame Defensive Line/Special Teams Coordinator (8-5, Sun Bowl champion)
2009 Cincinnati Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line/Special Teams Coordinator (12-1, BIG EAST champion, Sugar Bowl)
2008 Cincinnati Recruiting Coordinator/Tight Ends/Special Teams Coordinator (11-3, BIG EAST champion, Orange Bowl)
2007 Cincinnati Recruiting Coordinator/Tight Ends/Special Teams Coordinator (10-3, PapaJohns.com Bowl champion)
2006 Central Michigan Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator (10-4, MAC champion, Motor City Bowl champion)
2005 Central Michigan Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line (6-5)
2004 Central Michigan Defensive Line
2003 Eastern Michigan Recruiting Coordinator/Defensive Line
2002 Eastern Michigan Recruiting Coordinator/Defensive Line
2001 Eastern Michigan Defensive Ends
2000 Michigan Graduate Assistant/Outside Linebackers (9-3, Big Ten champion, Florida Citrus Bowl champion)
1999 Michigan Graduate Assistant/Outside Linebackers (10-2, Orange Bowl champion)
1998 Michigan Video Intern (10-3, Big Ten Champions, Florida Citrus Bowl champion)
1997 Michigan Student Assistant (12-0, national champion, Big Ten champion, Rose Bowl champion)