Michigan football officially announces Mike Elston hire

While we continue the wait for Jim Harbaugh to sign his proposed contract extension, he’s making moves in Ann Arbor as if he’ll be staying with the program.

It’s been days since reports surfaced that Michigan football was hiring defensive line coach Mike Elston, the former Wolverines linebacker, away from Notre Dame, but now it’s officially official.

The Michigan football program announced the move on Monday afternoon.

Full release

University of Michigan J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh announced Monday (Jan. 17) the hiring of former Wolverine player Mike Elston as the program’s defensive line coach. Elston brings 21 years of full-time coaching experience in the Midwest back to Ann Arbor.

“I am excited to welcome Mike Elston to an already incredibly talented staff here at the University of Michigan,” said Harbaugh. “I’ve followed Mike’s work at Notre Dame for a while and have admired his ability to not only recruit great student-athletes, but also his proven track record in developing players for the NFL. Mike is a Michigan man so he will be able to hit the ground running. Help me welcome Mike and his wife, Beth, and their three daughters, Olivia, Sophia and Isabella back home to Michigan.”

“My family and I are beyond excited to return to the University of Michigan,” said Elston. “I would like to thank Coach Harbaugh and Warde Manuel for this incredible opportunity to join the athletic department and university community. I can’t get to campus fast enough to begin building relationships with the players, coaches, and staff within the football program.”

Elston spent the past 12 seasons at Notre Dame, where he has helped the Irish appear in 11 bowl games, including two College Football Playoff semifinal appearances and one BCS National Championship game. He worked with 12 NFL draftees at Notre Dame, including five players drafted in the past three drafts (2019-21). The Irish played in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game, BCS National Championship, or the College Football Playoff four times in his 12 seasons with the program.

Elston returns to U-M for his second stint as part of the coaching staff. A three-year letter winner for the Maize and Blue from 1993-96, Elston contributed 29 tackles over his final two seasons. He was part of teams that accumulated a 35-16 four-year record under head coaches Gary Moeller (1993-94) and Lloyd Carr (1995-95) and won postseason games in the Hall of Fame Bowl following the 1993 season and the Holiday Bowl following the 1994 season.

Elston has been part of the staff at Notre Dame since the 2010 season, working with the defensive line in 10 of 12 seasons and the linebackers during the 2015-16 campaigns. He was the team’s recruiting coordinator for four years (2015-17, ’21) and was the special teams coordinator for his first two seasons in South Bend (2010-11). Last season in 2021, Elston was also the defense’s run game coordinator. He was elevated to associate head coach prior to the 2018 season, the second time in his career he held that title.

Most recently in 2021, Elston helped direct a defense that ranked top-30 in five major areas, including pass efficiency defense (23rd), scoring defense (15th), interceptions (14th), sacks (13th), third-down conversion rate allowed (10th), and defensive touchdowns (seventh). The Irish played in the 2022 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl and finished the year ranked eighth in the final edition of the Associated Press Poll and ninth in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll.

Following his playing days, Elston was a student assistant coach at Michigan for the 1997 National Championship season, and changed his duties to video intern for the 1998 season. He stepped into a graduate assistant role working with outside linebackers for the 1999 and 2000 seasons, then accepted the same position at Eastern Michigan in 2001.

Elston spent three years at Eastern Michigan, the latter two as recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach (2002-03) and then moved to the MAC West to work at Central Michigan from 2004-06. Elston began with the Chips as the defensive line coach and added the title of co-defensive coordinator in his second year. While leading the defensive line, he helped Dan Bazuin lead the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss and a MAC-record 16.0 sacks. Elston third year at CMU saw him coaching linebackers and he changed from co-coordinating the defense to being the team’s special teams coordinator. He helped guide two linebackers to earn All-MAC honors in 2006 including the league leader in tackles.

Elston would continue coordinating special teams units for the next five seasons; first at Cincinnati (2007-09), then at Notre Dame (2010-11). At Cincinnati, he worked with the tight ends his first two seasons and was the program’s recruiting coordinator. Elston’s last year with the Bearcats saw him elevated to assistant head coach while retaining special teams duties and coaching the defensive line.

Elston is the third former Michigan player on Harbaugh’s current coaching staff. Safeties mentor Ron Bellamy and running backs coach Mike Hart were both hired prior to the start of the 2021 season.

Elston and his wife, Beth, are the parents of three daughters: Olivia, Sophia and Isabella.