Report: Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko to interview at Notre Dame

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — On the day when the NCAA’s dead period in recruiting kicked in, Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly’s world was anything but.

His search for a new defensive coordinator picked up steam. He may be searching for a new offensive coordinator soon, not to mention he’ll definitely be grooming a new starting quarterback after junior DeShone Kizer declared for the NFL Draft.

Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko, long rumored to be a top candidate for the ND job, reportedly will interview with Kelly early this week. That’s according to a report from Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports.

Kelly fired third-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on Sept. 25. A collaboration of interim coordinator Greg Hudson, linebackers coach Mike Elston and Kelly guided the Irish defense over the final eight games of the season.

Elko, 39, has led Wake Forest to three top 40 finishes in total defense during his three seasons with the Demon Deacons. In 2015, Wake was the only team to hold Notre Dame to less than 400 yards in total offense, and it was way less — 282 yards in a 28-7 Irish victory.

Prior to arriving at Wake, Elko spent five seasons at Bowling Green with mixed results, including a 113th standing in total defense in 2013, but a No. 6 ranking in 2012.

The former University of Pennsylvania linebacker also coaches safeties for Wake Forest. His other coaching stops include his alma mater as well as Hofstra, Richmond, Fordham and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Sanford on the move?

Second-year Irish offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford is expected to be the next head coach at Western Kentucky, according to a report by Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel. However, another report on Monday by WBKO-TV in Bowling Green, Ky., stated that Sanford is a candidate for the position but has not been officially hired.

A source close to the situation told the Tribune Sanford has not yet been hired.

Sanford previously served on Western Kentucky's staff as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2010. In 12 years coaching on the collegiate level, he has held positions at six different schools.

Under Sanford's watch and with associate head coach Mike Denbrock calling the plays, Notre Dame's 2016 offense averaged 30.9 points and 417.6 yards per game.

In two seasons under Sanford's tutelage, Kizer passed for 5,809 yards (60.8 percent) and 47 touchdowns with 19 interceptions, and ran for 992 yards and 18 scores.

Sanford played quarterback at Boise State from 2000 to 2004. He attended nearby Penn High School from 1996 to 1998 while his father, Mike Sanford Sr., served as the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame.

AP All-Americans

Senior offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and junior offensive guard Quenton Nelson both were named third-team All-Americans by the Associated Press on Monday.

Both were among the seven captains head coach Brian Kelly named on Friday for the 2017 season, though QB DeShone Kizer’s decision Monday to enter the 2017 NFL Draft knocked that number down to six.

Both, like Kizer, have been mentioned as possible first-round draft choices in 2017, but McGlinchey said late in the season he’ll return to ND for his fifth year. Nelson said Friday he was leaning strongly toward coming back as well.

— Staff writer Mike Vorel contributed to this story.


Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Wake Forest's Mike Elko is Notre Dame's new defensive coordinator. (Photo courtesy of