Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston is reportedly accepting the same position at Michigan. Elston is a former Michigan outside linebacker who got his coaching start with the Wolverines as a graduate assistant for the Wolverines before moving on elsewhere.
Elston made 29 tackles and 4 pass breakups as an outside linebacker at Michigan from 1993-1996. He then became a video assistant and G.A. at Michigan, coached at Eastern Michigan for a couple years, and then latched on with Brian Kelly. Elston was with Kelly at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame, at various times holding the title of linebacker coach, defensive line coach, associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator, and recruiting coordinator. He’s had a wide array of positions and held some clout in a very good program, so that bodes well for his abilities.
At Notre Dame, Elston coached a variety of quality players, including Julian Okwara, Stephon Tuitt, Sheldon Day, Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes, Ade Ogundeji, Isaiah Foskey, Jerry Tillery, etc. While he’s never had a guy as productive as Aidan Hutchinson, he has coached a couple Notre Dame players (Tuitt and Foskey) into getting 11 sacks.
Despite the success of Michigan’s team – and Hutchinson and David Ojabo – in 2021, I think Elston is a significant step up from former defensive line coach Shaun Nua. That’s not just sour grapes because of Nua’s departure for USC; I was long critical of Nua’s developmental abilities, and there has been talk that Ryan Osborn helped out a lot with the edge guys who really exploded in 2021.
Elston has also been a solid recruiter. He’s ranked as the #36 recruiter in the country by 247 Sports for 2022, which is third on the Fighting Irish staff behind new head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. It also would place him third on Michigan’s staff, behind safeties coach Ron Bellamy and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. I’m not huge into ranking coaches by the recruiting rankings of the players that they may or may not have been recruiting primarily or secondarily; I think that type of ranking is very convoluted and potentially very inaccurate. So I don’t put a ton of stock in the ranking, and I put more faith in the fact that he was the recruiting coordinator for a team that recruits pretty well.