Report: Notre Dame to hire Wake Forest's Clark Lea as linebackers coach

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

When he accepted the defensive coordinator position at Notre Dame, it was expected that Mike Elko would bring at least one defensive staff member with him from Wake Forest.

It looks like Clark Lea is that guy.

Lea, who served as the Demon Deacons' linebackers coach in 2016, will hold the same position at Notre Dame, according to a report on Monday from Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel.

Lea, 35, spent just one season as Wake Forest's linebackers coach after coaching the linebackers at Syracuse from 2013 to 2015. He also served in the same role under head coach Dave Clawson and defensive coordinator Elko at Bowling Green in 2012.

Prior to his stint at Bowling Green, Lea — who played fullback at Vanderbilt and graduated in 2004 — also made coaching stops at UCLA and South Dakota State.

Under Lea's watch, senior Wake Forest linebacker Marquel Lee led the Demon Deacons with 105 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles while adding 7.5 sacks in 2016, spearheading a defense that finished 23rd nationally in scoring defense and ninth in turnovers gained last season. Senior Thomas Brown also contributed 65 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

In South Bend, Lea will inherit a linebacker corps that includes senior middle linebacker Nyles Morgan, who led the Irish with 94 tackles and four sacks in 2016. Experienced contributors Greer Martini, Te'von Coney and Asmar Bilal also return.

In the wake of Lea's addition, it appears Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Mike Elston will again coach the Irish defensive linemen, resuming a post he held from 2010 to 2014. Elston, who a source has confirmed to the Tribune will remain on staff, coached the linebackers each of the last two seasons.

The domino effect spurred by Lea's addition could leave current Notre Dame defensive line coach Keith Gilmore as the odd man out. Elko will coach the safeties in South Bend, while it's expected that Todd Lyght — a Notre Dame alum who oversaw the defensive backs in 2015 and 2016 — will be retained to coach the cornerbacks.

Junior linebacker Nyles Morgan (5) leads Notre Dame with his intangibles and tangibles (team-best 27 tackles). (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)