Elston’s stock rising as Notre Dame recruiter

South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame defensive line commit Micah Dew-Treadway did a little pondering before using “hungry” as his requested one-word description of Irish assistant coach Mike Elston.

Brandon Tiassum, like Dew-Treadway an ND D-line pledge, initially tossed out “upfront,” but after being concerned that he might be doubling his word limit, pounced on “genuine” to describe Elston, Notre Dame’s fifth-year defensive line coach.

Another word? Sizzling certainly would work after the recent run of recruits Elston has been able to secure for the Irish.

A one-week span in mid-June saw Elston nab three defensive line commits — the Irish also gained a commitment from Elijah Taylor from Cincinnati — solidifying that position for this cycle as ND looks to replenish a position group that was hit heavy with the losses of Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Kona Schwenke to the NFL.

The fact that Elston has been a headliner in Notre Dame’s recent rash of commitments has helped raise awareness that his stock is rising as a recruiter, but it’s also raised another point, and that’s that the Irish are loading up on Midwest talent.

Seven of ND’s 14 commits hail from the Midwest, and the recent run has bumped the class in or near the top 10 in the rankings, depending on which site, Rivals or 247, tickles your phenom fancy.

Elston, meanwhile, is forging a reputation as a top recruiter, having been ranked by as ND’s best last year, and he currently ranks as the nation’s No. 19 recruiter.

“So he’s starting to establish himself as one of the best recruiters in the country,” said 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong, “and if he’s doing that it’s translating with the success in the Midwest.”

In addition to Dew-Treadway (Bolingbrook, Ill.), Tiassum (Indianapolis) and Taylor, Elston also was the lead recruiter on Merrillville, Ind., linebacker Josh Barajas, flipping Barajas away from Penn State coach James Franklin.

The recent run also has seen the Irish grab commitments from Ohio cornerbacks Shaun Crawford and Nick Coleman, and of the 14 players ND has commitments has garnered, Elston is listed as the lead recruiter or co-lead recruiter on six of them by

Dew-Treadway recalled his first meeting with Elston, in which the coach told him that he couldn’t believe the staff hadn’t previously had Dew-Treadway on its recruiting board. The two talk every other day, and Dew-Treadway said it’s more than just coaching tips that Elston offers.

“He’s pretty much just focused on getting guys who fit Notre Dame,” Dew-Treadway said.

And that lately has included a fair amount of Midwest kids. Elston two years ago beat just about the entire country for star sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith of Fort Wayne, Ind. Last year he outmuscled Michigan State, which was coming off its best season in decades, on signing day for Cincinnati defensive lineman Daniel Cage. This season’s battle for Taylor was head-to-head with Ohio State.

“Mike Elston is always good for a couple big recruiting wins a year,” Wiltfong said. “He’s done some (good things) against some formidable foes.”

The majority of Elston’s success has come in the Midwest, an area in which the Irish staff has had a solid run since Brian Kelly was hired in December 2009, with Smith being the front door of Elston’s success. His contributions have helped ND rank, according to Rivals, 14th in 2010, 10th the following year, 20th in 2012, third in 2013, 11th last year with the current group ranking ninth following the recent commitment of kicker Justin Yoon.

CBS Sports Network analyst Tom Lemming has termed this year average in the Midwest while Wiltfong called it solid but not elite. The recent run, according to Wiltfong, may have had more to do with timing, meaning a lot of players who had been leaning to ND were at a point where they were ready to pull the trigger.

“There’s other guys in the Midwest that you’ve got to grind it out for,” Wiltfong said. “They’re not all a layup.”

One of those with whom ND is grinding it out for is Cincinnati outside linebacker Justin Hilliard, who is soon set to decide from among ND, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa. And it won’t be the last battle for the Irish as Michigan coach Brady Hoke makes the Midwest a huge priority and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is trying to build the perverbial fence around his state. And then there’s Franklin, a rock star of sorts in the recruiting world, who is nudging his way west as evidenced by the commitment, albeit short, he was able to gain from Barajas.

Despite it not being one of the more talented years in the Midwest, Wiltfong cautioned that ND isn’t exactly taking guys just because of their area codes.

“It doesn’t matter where they come from,” he said. “You don’t take Midwest guys just to take them.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Tiassum.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “It’s nice to have Midwest guys, but it doesn’t really matter as long as we can play as a team and get the job done.” ¦ 574-235-6428 ¦Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Notre Dame assistant coach Mike Elston has helped the Irish land a number of big-time recruits from across the Midwest. (Tribune file photo)

A look at all of the players Notre Dame has plucked from Midwest schools.


OL Trevor Ruhland (Cary, Ill.), ILB Josh Barajas (Merrillville, Ind.), DL Micah Dew-Treadway (Bolingbrook, Ill.), DL Brandon Tiassum (Indianapolis), CB Nick Coleman (Kettering, Ohio), DL Elijah Taylor (Cincinnati), CB Shaun Crawford (Lakewood, Ohio)


LB Jonathan Bonner (Chesterfield, Mo.), WR Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind.), OL Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland), DL Daniel Cage (Cincinnati), QB DeShone Kizer (Toledo, Ohio), LB Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill.), LB Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill.), LB Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind.), TE Nic Weishar (Midlothian, Ill.), DL Jhonny Williams (Bentor Harbor, Mich.)


OL Steve Elmer (Midland, Mich.), DL Jacob Matuska (Columbus, Ohio), OL Colin McGovern (New Lenox, Ill.), LB James Onwualu (St. Paul, Minn.), LB Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind.), QB Malik Zaire (Kettering, Ohio)


LS Scott Daly (Downers Grove, Ill.), DL Sheldon Day (Indianapolis), QB Gunner Kiel (Columbus, Ind.), WR Will Mahone (Austintown, Ohio), LB John Turner (Indianapolis)


K/P Kyle Brindza (Canton, Mich.), DL Brad Carrico (Dublin, Ohio), WR DaVaris Daniels (Vernon Hills, Ill.), LB Jarrett Grace (Cincinnati), S Eilar Hardy (Reynoldsburg, Ohio), DL Chase Hounshell (Kirtland, Ohio), TE Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa.), C Nick Martin (Indianapolis), DL Tony Springmann (Fort Wayne, Ind.).


S Austin Collinsworth (Fort Thomas Ky.), QB Andrew Hendrix (Cincinnati), OL Matt James (Cincinnati), OL Christian Lombard (Inverness, Ill.), WR Luke Massa (Cincinnati), OL Tate Nichols (Walton, Ky.), QB Tommy Rees (Lake Forest, Ill.), OLB Derek Roback (Waverly, Ohio), WR Daniel Smith (South Bend), TE Alex Welch (Cincinnati)

NOTE: Collinsworth and Nichols are from cities that are in close proximity to Cincinnati.