ATLANTA – Notre Dame will look internally for its next defensive coordinator. Multiple sources told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning that the Fighting Irish will elevate linebackers coach Clark Lea to replace Mike Elko as the school’s defensive coordinator. The sources indicated that the deal has not been completed, but Lea will be promoted in the near future.
Lea, 36, followed Elko from Wake Forest to Notre Dame a year ago when the Irish plucked Elko to be their next defensive coordinator. Lea served as the linebackers coach this season, and his elevation is expected to give the current defensive roster a smooth schematic transition.
He’ll be Notre Dame’s fourth defensive coordinator in the last three seasons, and the relative continuity with the system was an attractive aspect of the hire. The hire of Elko was viewed as a key to Notre Dame improving from 4-8 to 10-3 this season, one of the many changes coach Brian Kelly made in a staff overhaul last offseason. Lea was viewed internally as an integral part of that defensive overhaul. The Irish finished No. 31 in scoring defense (21.5), which is well ahead of their mark from the 2016 season (27.8).
Lea’s value also transcended scheme, as he’s considered an aggressive recruiter and a sharp young mind. Lea is a 2004 Vanderbilt graduate and has also coached as an assistant at UCLA, Bowling Green and Syracuse.
Elko left Notre Dame for Texas A&M, which signed him to a three-year deal, with rollovers, that starts at nearly $1.8 million per year and escalates from there.
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