Mike Elston had no problem with how Notre Dame evaluated talent under its last recruiting staff.
Since Brian Kelly arrived here the Irish have consistently finished with Top 10 hauls under two different recruiting coordinators: Chuck Martin and Tony Alford. Martin held the post for two years before taking over as offensive coordinator. Alford grabbed it from there before moving to Ohio State. Now Elston returns to the position he held during Kelly’s first two seasons at Cincinnati while also coaching linebackers.
Where Elston believes Notre Dame can be better is getting talent to campus, starting with last weekend’s Junior Day that hosted prospects from double-digit states and had cancellations from a few more.
An event with historically regional appeal went national.
“One of the biggest changes that we’ve tried to go through … is we’ve always done really good with evaluating talent and getting their interest. But we’ve gotta get them here,” Elston said. “And we’ve gotta do a better job of getting them here earlier.
“I think this Junior Day is an indication of having a plan of when our Junior Day is gonna be ahead of time, getting the information to them, inviting them and helping them set that up to where they can make that trip.”
The staff has already pivoted toward the Irish Invasion in June while balancing another dozen-plus visits during the remainder of spring practice. On top of Junior Day, Notre Dame hosted four-star athlete A.J. Taylor and four-star linebacker Curtis Robinson last week.
Elston wants the diligence of Notre Dame’s recruiting staff to be its hallmark.
He said recruiting coordinators don’t need to be the best recruiter on staff and probably shouldn’t be considering the job’s demands. However, that’s not how it worked for Notre Dame with Alford, the Irish ace in Florida, running the show.
“It doesn’t make sense to me necessarily the way people talk about that role because typically your best recruiters, if you take them and you tie them down with all the constraints that you have as a recruiting coordinator … you’re not able to call enough recruits,” Elston said.
“You take your best recruiters and you put them in that role, then you’re limiting what they can do. You don’t have to be the best recruiter on the staff, it’s about holding people accountable and having leadership for the people that are working under you for the recruiting department. I’m excited because I think those are my strengths.”
Elston said Notre Dame’s recruiting staff is full, although he didn’t name the replacement for Megan Whitt, who left the coordinator of recruiting operations position last month. Dave Peloquin remains in a personnel role. He’s served as the program’s de facto assistant recruiting coordinator much of the past decade.
For a first Junior Day, the reshuffled staff made an impression for its guest list more than its gets. The Irish landed three commitments – Tony Jones, Julian Love and John Shannon – from players it expected to ultimately lock up. The roster of visitors, however, symbolized Elston’s desire to get talent to campus sooner.
In addition to hosting the top quarterback on the board in Dwayne Haskins, the Irish got some Class of 2017 talent to South Bend, offering defensive end A.J. Epenesa, defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher and tight end Brock Wright.
“The biggest thing was just reorganizing and making sure everybody within the recruiting department knew and understood the roles they needed to play so we could function at a really high level,” Elston said. “I’m excited about where the recruiting department is headed.”