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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 3:59 pm

Irish make Elko hire official

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame made the hiring of Mike Elko official Tuesday, announcing Wake Forest's defensive coordinator would fill the same role for Irish coach Brian Kelly.

"Mike has consistently coordinated defenses that keep the points down, negate big plays, create negative plays, excel in the red zone and, quite simply, force opposing offenses to execute at an extremely high level to move the football," Kelly said in a statement issued by Notre Dame. "This rare combination of consistent success in those facets of defense, along with a proven ability to develop talent and fit it into his system, really places Mike in a class by himself among defensive coordinators across the country."

Wake Forest went 6-6 this year and will play in the Military Bowl next Tuesday due in part to a defense that ranked in the top 20 of the 128-team Football Bowl Subdivision in fumbles recovered (third), turnovers forced (10th), sacks (12th), defensive touchdowns (17th), red-zone efficiency (17th) and points allowed (20th).

Elko, whom Sports Illustrated reported last week would be Kelly's choice, replaces Brian VanGorder, fired by Kelly in September after a 1-3 start.

"I'm excited to join a program with the prestige of Notre Dame that can recruit the nation's highest caliber of student-athlete and compete for a national championship," Elko said in a statement issued by the Irish. "We hope to dictate the pace of the game with an attacking and aggressive style of defense, mix physicality and toughness with exceptional fundamentals and, lastly, play with great effort at all times. I can't wait to dive in and help these players achieve the standard of success necessary to win at the highest level."

Elko took over as Wake Forest's defensive coordinator before the 2014 season after five seasons as Bowling Green's defensive coordinator.

"It was extremely hard to walk away from everything we built at Wake Forest, especially with those players, and I'm so appreciative of everything that (Wake Forest coach) Dave (Clawson) did for me and my family," Elko said.

Kelly's statement added that Elko, 39, is a "perfect fit" at Notre Dame because of his commitment to players' off-field development.