You wouldn’t expect much roster or coaching staff turnover after a win in the Citrus Bowl over LSU. That was the unfortunate case for Notre Dame Football on Thursday, losing two big keys to their rebound season. Defensive Coordinator Mike Elko left Notre Dame early on Thursday when reports flooded that he would be signing with Texas A&M. After a well-improved defense this past season when compared to 2016, Irish fans hoped that the hard losses ended here. They did not when Junior wideout Equanimeous St. Brown declared for the NFL draft after a great season.
Elko was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame for just one season improving the defense greatly in a minimal amount of time. He was previously the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest and Bowling Green for several years before joining the Irish before this season. Notre Dame was the 46th best defense in the country under Elko’s leadership after being one of the worst in 2016. Elko is joining the Aggies and head coach Jimbo Fisher on a three-year deal averaging $1.8 million per year in annual salary.
St. Brown will obviously wind up with a shorter tenure than most thought at Notre Dame only playing three seasons. This past season, Equanimeous St. Brown caught 33 passes for 515 yards and 4 touchdowns. His best season came the year Notre Dame really struggled, finishing with 58 receptions for 961 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2016. The move is a bit questionable with under 2,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns under his belt at Notre Dame. St. Brown does flash big-play potential, but not enough to be the next Will Fuller on the Houston Texans. Being drafted by a team in the first five rounds will be a challenge for Brown. He will likely either be selected in the sixth or seventh round as a project for an NFL team.
Thursday was a tough day as Notre Dame lost two instrumental pieces to last year’s team. The future is still very bright with an enormous amount of good recruits coming in. The Irish have extreme confidence following a 10-3 season capped off with a 21-17 Citrus Bowl victory over LSU. Head coach Brian Kelly is finally starting to turn things around, and Notre Dame Football is still promising moving forward.