Michigan defensive line coach Mike Elston will join several of the program’s coaches in departing for the NFL after the national championship-winning 2023 season, according to a report from the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
“Michigan DL coach Mike Elston is expected to take the same job with the #Chargers, per source,” Pelissero posted on Tuesday evening. “Elston, who previously coached at Notre Dame from 2010-2021, played an integral role in the Wolverines’ success the last two seasons. Now he follows Jim Harbaugh to L.A.”
The news leaves the Wolverines with an additional coaching vacancy on their defensive staff following defensive coordinator Jesse Minter’s departure for the NFL, and it will make Sherrone Moore’s offseason more difficult as he takes the helm after a national championship-winning season.
The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb first reported the Chargers’ interest in Elston in his “Real Recognize Real” report on Monday, Feb. 5.
Elston, hired to coach the defensive line ahead of the 2022 season, helped develop that unit into one of the nation’s best. During his first year at U-M, he transformed Mazi Smith into a first-round NFL Draft selection and worked with Mike Morris, the 2022 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.
The defensive line — and in particular the interior, where Elston focused — took another step forward in 2023. Led by Kris Jenkins, Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant, the Wolverines’ defensive line dominated the Rose Bowl and the 2024 CFP National Championship Game.
“This is as good of a front that I’ve had the privilege of coaching, without a doubt,” Elston said early in the 2023 season. “From end to end, even that second level, it’s an impressive front seven.”
Elston played at U-M in the mid-1990s and was a student assistant coach in Ann Arbor during the 1997 title-winning season. His coaching career has kept him in the midwest — first at Eastern Michigan, then at Central Michigan and Cincinnati before more than a decade in South Bend.
Jim Harbaugh hired Elston from Notre Dame in 2022. At Michigan, he held the title of recruiting coordinator in addition to his responsibilities on the defensive line.
Early into his U-M tenure, Elston detailed his expectations for his defensive lines: “They’re going to be physical. You’re going to see great block construction for the run. You’re going to see a vertical, quick, aggressive pass rush, great effort and attitude to the football when the ball is either thrown or run. The physicality is going to be number one, with great effort. You’re going to see us flying to the ball. You’re going to see 11 of those winged helmets, four of them up front — sometimes five of them of the defensive linemen on the field — you’re going to see them flying to the football with great effort and attitude. And pass rush. … We need to be able to do that at all four positions.”
The Wolverines have undergone significant staff turnover since Jim Harbaugh departed for the NFL.
Moore promoted Kirk Campbell from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator and Grant Newsome from tight ends coach to offensive line coach. Analyst J.B. Brown received a promotion to special teams coordinator, replacing Jay Harbaugh, who is expected to take that job with the Seattle Seahawks.
On the defensive side of the ball, Moore must replace defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, linebackers coach Chris Partridge and now Elston.