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What losing Mike Elston means for Michigan

This…really sucks.

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

On Tuesday evening, it was reported by Tom Pelissero that Michigan Wolverines defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston was leaving Ann Arbor for a role with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The hits just keep on coming for Sherrone Moore, as the first-year head coach has already had to replace his defensive coordinator (Jesse Minter), special teams coordinator (Jay Harbaugh) and strength and conditioning coach (Ben Herbert). Additionally, the statuses of running backs coach Mike Hart and co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale are still up in the air.

Needless to say, rough times are afoot in Ann Arbor.

Here is how crucial a loss this is for Michigan.

Recruiting

Elston was an ace recruiter, hence his role in the recruiting department. He played a huge part in bringing in highly ranked guys like 2023 four-star Enow Etta, and 2024 four-stars Lugard Edokpayi, Owen Wafle, Ted Hammond and Devon Baxter.

The decision for Elston to leave is already being felt on the recruiting trail, as 2025 four-star Jaylen Williams reacted to the news on social media.

“It definitely changes something for my recruitment, but I have trust in coach Moore to turn the program around into something good again, but we just have to wait and see,” Williams told Brice Marich of The Michigan Insider ($).

Michigan leads the Crystal Ball for Williams, but that won’t last long unless the Wolverines can bring in another great recruiter like Elston who can build a solid relationship with him quickly. Easier said than done.

Michigan at greater risk to lose players via the portal

This is the one that could really sting the short-term future of Michigan football.

Elston didn’t recruit guys like Mason Graham and Kenneth Grant to Ann Arbor, but he was a big reason for their development the last couple seasons. These are two of Michigan’s most important players heading into the 2024 season, so keeping them should be a top priority for Moore.

However, it may be tougher now with Elston gone and other schools reportedly throwing big money offers at them and other star players in an effort to get them to transfer. Time will tell if Elston going to the NFL will have a big impact here, but the threat is very much real for Graham, Grant and other defensive linemen to leave Michigan for another school.

Development of Michigan’s young DL

There’s no denying Elston was a great developer, as well. He has sent a plethora of defensive linemen to the NFL during his time as a college coach. He also played a big role in Kris Jenkins’ emergence the last couple seasons, as well as Braiden McGregor and Jaylen Harrell, all of whom are off to the league in this year’s NFL Draft.

So how will the young, up-and-coming defensive linemen fare now that Elston is gone? There surely is still talent left in the room — Derrick Moore, Josaiah Stewart, Rayshaun Benny and others — but it’s fair to question if the Wolverines will tap into their full potential with whoever the new defensive line coach will be.

That isn’t to say the players will be unmotivated or not coached well, but Elston has a track record for getting the very best out of his players. With Moore having to replace his defensive line coach and defensive coordinator, only time will tell how this will affect the young guys left in the defensive line room.