Texas A&M hires Notre Dame's Mike Elko as defensive coordinator

Dr. Saturday
Mike Elko spent one season as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. (Becky Malewitz/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)
Mike Elko spent one season as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. (Becky Malewitz/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)

After its pursuit of LSU’s Dave Aranda fell through, Texas A&M had another option on the table.

A&M has hired Mike Elko away from Notre Dame to be the Aggies’ defensive coordinator under new head coach Jimbo Fisher.

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“I am excited to bring one of the top defensive minds in the nation onto our staff here at Texas A&M,” Fisher said. “No matter where Mike has worked, he has consistently produced defenses that have been among the nation’s best.”

Texas A&M gave Fisher a guaranteed 10-year, $75 million deal, so it’s not a surprise to see that Elko will be well compensated at his new school. The Aggies came after Aranda with big money, prompting LSU to make him the highest-paid assistant in college football at more than $2 million annually. A source told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that Elko won’t be far behind.

Elko spent just one season at Notre Dame after a three-year stint at Wake Forest and five years at Bowling Green, both under Dave Clawson. At Notre Dame, he inherited a unit that struggled in 2016 amid the Irish’s disastrous 4-8 season.

With Elko running things, the Irish moved up from No. 57 nationally in scoring defense in 2016 to No. 27 this year. The defense also improved from No. 44 to No. 25 in yards per play allowed and No. 55 to No. 30 in opponents third down percentage. Notre Dame finished the season with a 10-3 record after a dramatic Citrus Bowl victory over LSU on Monday.

“Mike Elko has made the decision to accept an offer to be the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. We appreciate his work and effort over the last year with our program and wish him the best moving forward,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said.

The news of Elko’s hire comes a week after Kelly told Irish Illustrated that Elko was not going anywhere. At the time, A&M apparently had been pushing for Elko’s services and Kelly was critical of the money thrown at assistants.

“If you’re looking at the defensive coordinators that are out there today and you look at what they’re being paid, it’s ridiculous,” Kelly said. “The money is crazy and the length of contracts that are being thrown at you. You look at it that way, you’re probably going to catch somebody’s eye early on in the process, and I’m not saying that it happened or it didn’t happen, you can put two and two together.”

“Yeah, it’s been a challenge, but we’ll all be together,” Kelly said. “At first glance, yeah, I think you’re always on guard (about losing a coach), especially the defensive coordinator position. Mike came in, did a really good job. His name was out there, but he’s gonna be here at Notre Dame.”

In 2017, Texas A&M was No. 78 overall in total defense, giving up an average of 408.5 yards per game. The Aggies finished the year with a 7-6 record. Kevin Sumlin was fired after the regular season finale. He had a 51-26 (25-23 SEC) record with the Aggies.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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