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Duke football welcomes new coaches to Mike Elko's staff

Former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill was hired Sunday evening as Duke's safeties coach.
Former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill was hired Sunday evening as Duke's safeties coach.

There will be more new faces on the Duke sideline next season. 

Head coach Mike Elko brought in former Rutgers defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Robb Smith to serve as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Blue Devils, the program announced Wednesday afternoon. 

Smith, a longtime confidante of Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, has called the plays on the defensive side for the Scarlet Knights since 2020. This season, Rutgers ranked 52nd nationally in points per game allowed, giving up 24.6 a contest. 

Smith has also been the defensive coordinator for Arkansas and Minnesota, and was the linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. 

In addition to Smith, Former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill has been brought on as the safeties coach, the program announced Dec. 19. Hemphill and first-year head coach Mike Elko have a history together dating back to their days on the Hofstra coaching staff during Elko’s 2006-08 stretch there. 

Hemphill comes to Duke after being on the Wake Forest staff since 2017 and being instrumental as the defensive coordinator in the Demon Deacons’ 10-3 2021 season. His defense ranked 16th in the country in third down defense and 17th in interceptions. 

Before his time at Wake Forest, Hemphill served on Stony Brook's staff from 2011-16 and won FCS Defensive Coordinator of the Year in 2015. He has also previously coached at Delaware and Delaware Valley since entering the coaching game in 2002. 

Thursday morning, the program announced that Harland Bower has been hired as the defensive ends coach. Bower and Elko spent time coaching together at Texas A&M this past season, where Bower worked as a defensive analyst. He's been coaching since 2010 and has spent time on the Rutgers and Notre Dame coaching staffs, among others. 

Duke was also expected to bring in former New York Giants’ defensive line coach Sean Spencer in that same role and as co-defensive coordinator alongside Smith. Spencer, 51, has 21 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level including a six-year run with Penn State. Spencer’s hiring was reported Jan. 11 by the News & Observer’s Steve Wiseman after the Giants fired head coach Joe Judge. However, ESPN's Pete Thamel reported Jan. 15 that Spencer had opted to instead become the defensive line coach at Florida, so it appears that he is heading to Gainesville, Fla.

Most recently, the program announced the hiring of Ishmael Aristide as the cornerbacks coach. Aristide has a rapport with Elko from their time on the Texas A&M staff in 2019-20 and has been on the coaching staffs of Auburn, Mississippi and Miami, with him most recently being the linebackers coach down in Coral Gables, Fla. 

Friday afternoon, Adam Cushing got his official announcement as the team's run game coordinator and offensive line coach. Cushing stepped down from his head coaching post at Eastern Illinois Jan. 11 after three seasons and prior to that, he coached at Northwestern form 2004-18 where he was the offensive line coach for his final six years there. 

Elsewhere, Maryland wide receivers coach Zohn Burden is reportedly expected to join the program as wide receivers coach. 

The program is yet to comment on the statuses of the 2021 coaching staff. However, Guerrieri and numerous other assistants are no longer on the program's coaching staff directory, and Adam Rowe of 247Sports reported that Elko would only bring back associate head coach/defensive backs Trooper Taylor, who also served as interim head coach after David Cutcliffe and the program parted ways last month. 

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates. This article was last updated Jan. 15 at 7:10 p.m. after the reports of Spencer opting to become the defensive line coach at Florida.  

Max Rego profile
Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.

Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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