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Football: Elston to guide defensive line

LAURA MYERS | Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston is used to having plenty of responsibilities under coach Brian Kelly. This year should be no exception.
Elston, who has coached with Kelly since 2004, served as assistant head coach, defensive line coach and special teams coordinator at Cincinnati during the 2009 season while also functioning as a top recruiter.
With the Irish, he will continue to coordinate special teams along with his defensive duties.
“[Elston has] been on offense and defense and he also takes charge of special teams,” Kelly said in a press conference Friday. “He does a terrific job.”
Under Kelly at Central Michigan, Elston coached the defensive line in 2004-05 and linebackers there in 2006. He spent time as co-defensive coordinator in 2005 and special teams coordinator in 2006.
Elston then made the move to Cincinnati with Kelly in 2007. In his first two years there, he served as tight ends coach, special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator.
Kelly said Elston would remain special teams coach for the upcoming season, though Kelly may add another member to his staff in the future.
“Elston has the best knowledge base on special teams. We do want to assist him and we’re going to do that more than I have in the past because it is a big load … but before we transition out those special teams, it won’t be for another year,” Kelly said.
Elston had to work with a young defensive line in 2009, having to replace all of his 2008 starters. He also helped to transition the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme.
Despite those challenges, Cincinnati’s rush defense held opponents to 3.6 yards per carry and ranked third in the country in tackles for loss and 10th in sacks. The defensive line was responsible for 57 of the tackles for loss and 25.5 sacks.
Elston’s kickoff return unit at Cincinnati finished second in the country in 2009 with 28.5 yards per return and were fourth with three returns for a touchdown.
“He’s just done a great job for us, developing our players,” Kelly said. “That’s really what this is about, developing them from freshman year to senior year.”
This will be Elston’s 12th year as an assistant in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. Before he joined Kelly at Central Michigan, he spent three years as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, first as a defensive ends coach in 2001 and then as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator in 2002-03. Before that, he spent two years as a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan, his alma mater, where he had been a three-year letter winner as an outside linebacker. Elston served as assistant to the football camp director prior to becoming a graduate assistant, and was in this role in 1997 when the Wolverines went 12-0 and won a National Championship.
Kelly said the two had addressed Elston’s possible loyalties to Michigan.
“He does have one thing going against him, so we worked on that, cleaned that up quite a bit,” he said.