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Texas A&M Football

Elko reviews roster retention rally, shares excitement for spring ball

February 14, 2024

During Wednesday morning's edition of TexAgs Radio, Texas A&M head football coach Mike Elko sat down to recap his wild first couple of months back in Aggieland. Elko discussed the craziness surrounding A&M's roster management, what a successful 2024 looks like and more.

Key notes from Mike Elko interview

  • How are we doing? It's nice to be over here in the TexAgs Studio. To get the invite to come over first thing in the morning, I appreciate you guys.
  • To my wife back in Durham, Happy Valentine's Day, hun. I appreciate you.
  • When you take over a new job, you know there is a lot to do. You are building the infrastructure for your program. I don't know that you can even begin to understand with the portal and roster retention what those first 30 days look like. You can't prepare for that at all.
  • When I took the Duke job, the timing was so much different. College football has evolved so much. When I got hired at Duke, it was three days before the dead period in December. I flew in on a Friday, and I had Saturday and Sunday, and then it went dead. You have to spend a solid three weeks in the office doing what you have to. The portal did not become as big of a thing until after spring ball that year.
  • Knowing some of the players beforehand helped to some degree. There were a handful that played for me and knew who I was. I knew the vast majority through recruiting them, but I left before they got on the roster. The fact there was familiarity with who I was, their were people they could talk to reference who I was. That helped with building trust with the initial relationship of guys we were able to retain.
  • You look at a guy like Conner Weigman, it's not to say our relationship wasn't great, but I had a familiarity with him and his family. When you start talking to a guy like that about where we are going, it's easier to get the conversation started.
  • There is a huge danger because everything is relationship-based nowadays. Coming from a school in a different area of the country with a different recruiting footprint, you don't cross paths with these kids. Being at Duke for the last two years, I had never had a conversation with Tristan Jernigan‍. You walk in here in December, and he is looking at you. When there is no prior relationship at all, those things seem like challenges.
  • When you are here for four years, it is not hard to figure out how special this place is. My family and I really enjoyed it here. We turned down a lot of things to stay here as the defensive coordinator. We were very happy here until the right situation came along for us. That was Duke. I am still very thankful and appreciate that they gave me that opportunity.
  • This place is special. We, as a family believe that, and everyone in this community believes that. Going back to my first year, hosting Clemson and College GameDay, and walking out on that field... This place is different from a lot of places throughout the country.
  • I think the biggest thing is an appreciation for the opportunity we have to represent Texas A&M. That is a huge starting point. If you look at 19-year-olds across America, you are living in the elite world. Yeah, what we do is hard and challenging. There is a lot of stress that comes along with being a high-level football player. Let's not forget what we are really doing.
  • We want to be extremely tough, mentally and physically. We want to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. We want to be very disciplined. We want to be very prepared. We wanted to walk off every field saying, "That is the team that played the hardest." If you can put those things together with some talent, skill and really good scheme concepts, you can be a really good football team.
  • What you have to do in recruiting is identify future NFL talent. For some kids, more has to happen, and for some kids, less. There are a lot of intangibles that go into being an NFL Draft pick.
  • I want you to evaluate how we do in recruiting through the NFL Draft. That is so hard in today's society. Everyone wants to know right now, today, how we did in 2024 recruiting. The reality is that you won't know for three or four years down the line. Are these kids All-SEC players? Are they getting drafted? That is what the roster has to look like to win it all. If we want to win it all, like we are capable of, we have to have a roster out there with 17 to 18 NFL players on it. That, to me, is what you are looking for.
  • The offensive coordinator position is probably the more impactful one from a hire standpoint. From a schematic standpoint, Collin Klein will handle 85 to 90 percent of the load to my 10 to 15 percent on that side of the ball.
  • The harder hire was the defensive coordinator because I needed someone who is extremely intelligent, who is an extremely hard worker and who has a really good understanding of the game of football. He also has to see defense through the same lens as me. I don't know that I would have partnered well with someone who sees defense way differently than I do. I think we were very lucky to find a Jay Bateman.
  • The relationship with Bateman has continued for 20 years. I don't know if anyone can be a best friend when coaching. You don't have the time, but when you work with someone, have respect for them and watch them in the offseason. That, to me, creates a lot of familiarity with Jay. I know who he is as a person.
  • Klein is extremely intelligent. He is a phenomenal human. When you put these two things together, a lot of success happens. He will be able to really connect with our kids. He already has. He is a leader they can follow. He will do a really good job of creating a structure and scheme that can extenuate their strengths. That is what kids are looking for.
  • Everyone sees A&M the same way we do. There is a lot of excitement about what we can be, and everyone believes what we are capable of. Maybe there is a little bit of anger on why we are not there.
  • Everyone we bring here, their jaw hits the floor because this place is amazing. Now, you have to fill in the gap of, "Here is why we will become a consistent winner. Here is why we are a team that will consistently be in the College Football Playoff. Here are the things we will do to help you become the best player you can become."
  • When we looked at the portal that week, we were able to get a couple of kids early. We got the staff together, and the window would be back open for kids to come on campus in January. When we looked at what that portal recruiting board looked like, what we needed, and what we were trying to add, there was not a lot of margin for error.
  • We were able to hit at a high rate to get where we wanted to go. When you say, "OK, we have to get seven of eight with these DBs we are bringing in to get this where we want it to be... We were able to have a lot of success, given the restrictions and timing.”
  • I don't evaluate positions as "holes." I think you are constantly in the market to see where you can improve. You don't ever want a program that shies away from competition. You continue to search for whatever you think makes this roster better moving into the fall.
  • The spring portal window is always weird with who goes in and what you can get done. If there are some pieces out there for us, we want to be involved in it.
  • The wildest transfer story was Desmond Ricks. At the end of the portal haul, you felt like it was over. We were in a good spot and got through it. Then all of a sudden, we were like, "This may be going on." Twenty-four hours later, Ricks is here. Like going to classes here. It was really quick. He was nowhere on the radar to on the radar to over like that. It speaks to the speed of how fast these things move.
  • We have potential we have to live up to. I can’t point to anything and say, “This is why we are failing.” We are not failing because we don't have fan support. We are not failing because we can't provide our student-athletes with an absolute premier experience. We are not failing because of the strength program. We have everything we need to build this program exactly how we want to build it. That is everything you want as a coach. That means it is on us. We have to do it the right way. We have to convince people that our quick present future is better than the recent past.
  • I have had a conversation with Mark A. Welsh III about the athletic director search, and he respects my opinion on it. I think you are looking for a guy who can come in here and understand the modern era of college athletics and where it is going.
  • Football has evolved, but so has every other sport. NIL plays a role in everything. In the next five years, college football will look different. I want a guy who has an understanding of where this thing is headed and has a great vision for where he wants Texas A&M Athletics to go.
  • We had a lot of favorite restaurants when we were here. I think have to give a shoutout to 1860 Italia cause we spend a lot of time down there. To be honest, we like the normal stuff. The first time my wife and I went out, we went to Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux and sat in the back. That is kind of where we belong.
  • The nice thing is I can keep a low profile and mind my own business. When we were here, we had just integrated into the community. The one thing I appreciate here is people kind of leave you alone. Everyone once in a while, someone will come over, but for the most part, people will just leave you alone. I always appreciated College Station for that.
  • It was great to get to go back to Durham recently. The whole staff hit the ground running, and I don't think we looked up until National Signing Day. A couple of the guys have now relocated their families here, which is good.
  • We are still in the midst of figuring it out. Most people know I have an 11th-grade son who will probably finish high school in North Carolina, so we are trying to situate that whole deal, along with my ninth-grade daughter. I saw my son Michael at Richmond while recruiting.
  • It's funny. We spent more time in College Station than in Durham. My daughter did third to seventh grade here. Her friend group is still here. She has her friend group in Durham.
  • First of all, I probably need to let everyone know that my Twitter actually is me. I am not one of these coaches who hands his phone off. I don't have an immense swagger on Twitter, but I have enough for a 47-year-old coach. I do get some help from my kids. We talked about what our commitment GIF was going to look like. The family came up with some designs and selected the right one in a group chat.
  • In this day and age, so many people are on social media. It is no longer a young people thing only. It is an American thing. You want to have some type of engagement, certainly without putting our commits at risk, but you want them to have their moment as well. I like to have fun with the fans when I can.
  • I think the message about NIL is it is here and here to stay. We can talk about our opinions of it, but none of that really matters.
  • The second part is a lot of what NIL goes towards for these young men is not these extravgent purchases. A lot of kids are giving it back to families and their homes.
  • We talk to our kids about what value looks like. It doesn't mean we have to get in these bidding wars. You want people in your building to feel like you value what they are and the role they play. That is what NIL does. If you can stay out in front and people in your program feel valued, a lot of times, it won't be about doing the most. It's about doing it right.
  • We have a lot of really good kids and ones that are listening to the message. Some of them are trying to keep their own head above water right now. We got into our first workout yesterday with the coaches out there and pushed kids to their limits. It was good to see our kids encourage and push their teammates. It was fun to watch some of that.
  • It starts with relationships. Then it goes to connections and real honesty. I talk to people all the time about it. This is the "why" generation. They will take accountability and discipline as long as they understand why. We were the "because" generation. You have to be able to get in front of them and say, "Yes, this will be hard, but here is why." It's funny you mentioned Dan Campbell because he does that in Hard Knocks. He explains why. Once you do explain that, people will get behind you and follow you.
  • In terms of what is a successful year one, this is how I look at it: We want to become the best version of this team we can become. Everybody is aware that if we do that, there will be results that people will be happy about. We are not lost on the fact that results matter.
  • If you put tangible goals out there, you are fishing for things that are too far down the road. We want to attack today. If we do that enough, then you can hold your head high.
  • When we got to Duke after a 3-9 season, everyone wanted me to say we would be a bowl team. I just don't know if you can push buttons and do that. You roll up your sleeves, and you work. Usually, over the course of history, that has proven to work. That is what we will do.
  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the kids are lifting. Tuesday and Thursday, we do what we call competitive agility. It brings in grit and competition. It starts building the mentality that we want to play with. That will lead us to spring break. After spring break, we will roll into spring ball and get this thing rolling. 
  • You have to embrace every part of this job, but at the end of the day, you promise all of these kids something. This is the time we have to deliver on that to help them grow, become men and great football players. You cannot do that if you aren't in it with them. When you are around your team, that is what you relish.
  • Whether it’s a Saturday or a Thursday, just put a ball down. We will be there and play Texas. Put a ball down, and I will play anyone. Put a ball down against them, and we will be there.
Discussion from...

Elko reviews roster retention rally, shares excitement for spring ball

14,111 Views | 12 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by RaggedConverge
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The future is now and Elko is the man to get it done.
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Really hard not to like Elko. The guy speaks intelligently and exudes confidence, not cockiness or false bravado.
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dreyOO said:

Really hard not to like Elko. The guy speaks intelligently and exudes confidence, not cockiness or false bravado.
Yep, but I don't believe extenuating was the correct word.
That, sir, was the greatest post in the history of TexAgs. I salute you. -- Dough
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Put a ball down !!

Love it. That's OUR Coach !!
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Thanks for making this one free. Wish Mike was my Valentine
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Good interview.
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Wow! This is the most intelligent coach Texas A&M has hired in the past 65 years.
Texas Aggies
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This article is good for two unexpected wins and three unexpected recruiting victories.
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Great interview. First of many, hopefully
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