I’ve really struggled to write about Aggie Football lately because that LSU loss was such a kick in the junk, both THAT it happened and in HOW it happened. But given yesterday’s news about Elko I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down on paper. So I woke up this morning, made my kids some eggs, and got to work.
I had an old boss at A&M who called moments like these a “Whoop and Poop” which is cheesy as hell but it represents how I’m feeling pretty. It’s bittersweet good news combined with bad news but also with some good news too. Let’s break it down
Elko’s cerebral brand of complex football filled with defensive backs blitzing from all over the place and consistent ability to leave QBs heads spinning as to where pressure was gonna come from next was fun as hell to watch. Over the course of four years, he went from being the guy that was our plan b after Aranda turned us down in January of 2018 to being one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. And at a place like A&M, that means a ton.
More than that was the way he went about it. We are conditioned to think of coordinators having one good year and taking off as Kingsbury and Polian did in 2012. But Elko stayed, and despite a brief flirtation with Temple in 2018, he was loyal as hell. Sure our rivals might have rumored his demise more than a few times but he stuck it out. And then the one job that there was serious smoke for...he took. No drama nothing—just hey Duke is a job I’d like to take, and I’m going to take it, but not until after I call a few recruits to tell them I’m taking it.
The Elkos have done right by us and with a son graduating from high school about to play baseball at Northwestern this is the perfect time for them to move. Godspeed Mike. Thanks for the time you shared with us.
In moments like these, there’s a tendency to lionize the person leaving and not consider the notion that there are areas in which we can improve. Our defense over the past three years has been outstanding, but it has proven to be consistently vulnerable in a couple of areas. We struggled outside the hashes, we struggled against spread/up-tempo teams, and we struggled to make first-half in-game adjustments. Again, none of this is a critique of Elko, it’s just where we were. This hire gives us the opportunity to fix a few of those things and given the talent we have coming in, I think it’s a reasonable expectation to think that our defense will be better in some ways moving forward.
Here’s the other thing...we’re now moving into year 5 of the Fisher era. I give this year a bit of a mulligan given personnel issues, but we’re about to be halfway through his first contract. We’re recruiting at an incredibly high level, we have talent at darn near every position and it is absolutely time to bring in some new blood to help us evaluate culture, process, and how we go about doing things and make some tweaks to get us to where we want to go. Getting new voices in the room is a good thing and especially at a position like DC...where whomever we hire has absolute authority over their area is expected to essentially be the head coach of the defense...this is a great opportunity for those within our program to benefit from an outside view.
Shit man your guess is as good as mine. There are natural connections to guys like Muschamp. There are guys like Derek Mason out there who I think would be wonderful. There are co-dc possibilities on our staff with Santucci and Robinson. There are young guys like Kentucky’s Brad White (also rumored for the LSU job) or Wisconsin’s Jim Leonhard. And then there’s the wildcard holy shit I can't believe Jimbo landed this guy type of hire. I don't know who it’s going to be but I know that our recently extended coach has a blank check and a stocked depth chart cupboard to go hunting and I am confident that he will make a good hire.
In the past Jimbo has preferred a back-to-front approach, meaning someone who is a DB coach by trade. I also believe that he prefers an even 4 man front, so guys like Barry Odom might be out (but even that’s silly because Odom ran a 4-3 at Missouri). The other wildcard here is our intention to retain almost all if not all of our position coaches, which might leave us with a bit more wiggle room as to how closely we adhere to that back-to-front approach.
Regardless, I’m just not all that worried about this hire. We’re gonna make a good one. It’s all going to be fine.
I love Mike Elko. The dude has done so many good things for us, and I know he’s going to do great things at Duke. Maybe he turns them around and takes a bigger job. Maybe he stays there forever and becomes the Pat Fitzgerald of Durham, North Carolina. Happy for the guy.
We will be ok. Positive attrition like this is a good sign for a program, and much like recruiting the guys who don't pick you don't matter—what matters is how well you’re able to replace them and get someone of equal or better quality.
Time to scour Twitter and man your flight tracker battle stations.
BTHO wake forest.