Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston reportedly leaving for same job at Michigan

Justin Frommer
ND Insider
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, left, on he sidelines with Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston during the Blue-Gold NCAA spring football game on Saturday, May 1, 2021, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

SOUTH BEND — It appears that Notre Dame is losing its longest-tenured assistant football coach. 

Multiple media reports have Notre Dame defensive line coach, Mike Elston leaving the Irish to take the same position at Michigan, his alma mater. Tom Loy of 247sports was the first to report the move.

Elston, will replace Shaun Nua, who left the Wolverines to take the same position on Lincoln Riley's staff at Southern California. 

► More:Defensive line coach Mike Elston explains why he stayed at Notre Dame

► Fiesta Bowl notebook: Elston's play-calling duties on defense is not his first time

An outside linebacker at Michigan from 1993-96, Elston began his coaching career in Ann Arbor as a student and graduate assistant. He came to South Bend 12 years ago after making stops at Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Cincinnati. 

Elston began his time in Notre Dame as the program's defensive line coach and special teams coordinator before focusing solely on defensive line from 2012-14.

He moved to the recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach positions for 2015 and 2016, before switching back to defensive line coach in 2017. In 2018 he was given the associate head coaching role under former Irish head coach and longtime mentor Brian Kelly, who left South Bend to take over at LSU. Last season, Elston held the run game coordinator, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coaching positions. 

During his Notre Dame tenure, Elston has coached 12 NFL draftees, including five players that were drafted since 2019. He could see two more players get drafted this spring in Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish, who have already announced their intentions to be in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and defensive line coach Mike Elston during the Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Elston's move comes as a surprise for a couple reasons. First because he rejected an offer to join Kelly's staff in Baton Rouge to stay at Notre Dame. Prior to Notre Dame Elston had coached for Kelly at both Cincinnati and Central Michigan.

“At the end of the day my family is the most important thing in my life," Elston said in December of his decision to stay with new Irish head coach Marcus Freeman.   

Elston, a father of three daughters, said he didn’t like the idea of moving his family out of South Bend when his children are at such important stages in their lives. His eldest daughter is a junior in high school. His middle daughter, an eighth grader, has taken to fencing, which likely wouldn’t have happened if not for Notre Dame’s successful program. 

“It’s a family decision for me,” Elston said. “It will always be a family decision for me. It’s not about money. It's truly about my kids want to go to Notre Dame too. It’s a family decision, and that’s why I’ve always really kind of turned down opportunities for myself.  

“I want my children to go off to college and when they say to their friends, ‘Hey, I’m going to go home for the weekend,’ they have a place to go. They know where home is, and that’s South Bend for them. I don’t want that to change right now.” 

► More:This guy's back? That guy's leaving? Keeping up with the Irish football roster roulette

Elston also leaves behind a defensive line that is expected to be a strength for the Irish next season after finishing 2021 ranked No. 8 in the final AP poll.

Seniors, Justin Ademilola, Jayson Ademilola and Isaiah Foskey all announced their plans to return for the 2022 season, bringing their combined 26 career sacks with them.

The Irish also signed three defensive lineman in their 2022 football class with four-stars Tyson Ford, Aidan Gobaira and three-star Donovan Hinisch joining the team this season. 

The South Bend Tribune reached out to two of the three signees about Elston's departure, but did not receive a response by the time of this article's publication. 

Notre Dame’s Mike Elston during the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Earlier this week, Freeman added to his staff by reportedly bringing in Chansi Stuckey from Baylor to be his wide receivers coach, replacing Del Alexander. 

Now, he is in search of a new assistant on the defensive side of the ball as well as still needing to fill the defensive coordinator position he was promoted from.

Notre Dame opens the 2022 season Sept. 3 against Ohio State in Columbus.