Mike Ekeler hired to lead the KU special teams
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Mike Ekeler, who worked under head coach Les Miles at LSU, including during LSU’s national championship run in 2007, has been hired as the Kansas special teams coordinator. Ekeler played linebacker at in-state rival Kansas State and has coached at seven Power 5 programs prior to joining the KU staff.
“Mike Ekeler is one of the brightest coaches in the country and we couldn’t be more excited to add a coach of his caliber to our staff,” said Miles. “The success that Mike has had throughout his career leading the special teams units at Nebraska and Georgia, in addition to his experience as a defensive coordinator at Indiana and North Texas, will serve us well as we build something special here at Kansas. Mike’s energy is contagious, and he has proven himself to be a coach who builds relationships with student-athletes and gets the best out of them on and off the field.”
Most recently Ekeler served as the linebackers coach at North Carolina, and has also worked with linebackers at Georgia, USC, Indiana, Nebraska, LSU and Oklahoma. He has been a part of three teams who participated in the BCS National Championship game, including teaming up with Miles to claim the 2007 National Championship while at LSU.
In 2018, Ekeler coached Cole Holcomb who led the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in tackles with 9.5 per game. Holcomb, who was tabbed All-ACC Second Team, also ranked second in the league on solo stops with 5.4 per contest.
In his first season in Chapel Hill, Ekeler tutored a veteran group that featured Holcomb along with Cayson Collins and Andre Smith. Collins, who was second on the team with 83 tackles, signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins, while Smith was a seventh-round selection by the Carolina Panthers.
Ekeler came to UNC after serving as North Texas’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2016. In his first season at North Texas, Ekeler oversaw a defense that held opponents to 8.7 points per game fewer than the previous year. That turnaround in scoring defense was the 13th-best mark in the country. He also oversaw a linebacking corps that included the team’s sack leader Joshua Wheeler (5.5).
In two seasons at UGA, Ekeler coached some of the best defenses in the country. In 2015, Georgia’s defense ranked seventh in the nation in total defense, allowing only 305.8 yards per game. In 2014, the Bulldogs ranked 17th in the country in total defense and were second in the SEC in passing defense efficiency. He coached three NFL draft picks in 2014, Leonard Floyd (first round), Ramik Wilson (fourth round) and Amarlo Herrera (sixth round). Ekeler also coordinated the defensive special teams at Georgia and the punt return team had six touchdown returns in two seasons.
At USC in 2013, Ekeler coached Hayes Pullard who was named to the All-Pac 12 second team. That year Pullard had 60 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and was drafted in the sixth round. While at Indiana, Ekeler served as the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator from 2011-12.
A native of David City, Nebraska, Ekeler spent three seasons as Nebraska’s linebackers coach (2008-10) under head coach Bo Pelini. During his three years in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers won or shared the Big 12 Conference North Division title all three seasons.
As Nebraska’s linebackers coach, he was involved with some of the nation’s most successful defenses. In 2010, Nebraska was third nationally in pass efficiency defense, fifth in pass defense, ninth in scoring defense and 11th in total defense. In 2009, the Cornhuskers led the country in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense, and were seventh in total defense and ninth in rushing defense. He coached NFL draft picks Lavonte David, a 2010 and 2011 All-American first teamer when he set the school season tackles record, Phillip Dillard, Cody Glenn, Eric Martin and Will Compton. David is an All-Pro linebacker for Tampa Bay and Compton is Washington’s defensive captain.
Ekeler worked as a graduate assistant under Miles at LSU (2005-07) and Oklahoma (2003-04). Oklahoma played for the BCS title in both of Ekeler’s seasons in Norman, posting a two-year record of 24-3. While at LSU, the Tigers led the SEC in six defensive categories and ranked nationally in four in 2006. The 2007 LSU team finished 12-2 and won the BCS National Championship marking the third time in five years that Ekeler had been part of a team playing for the BCS title.
Ekeler, a special teams standout and linebacker for Bill Snyder at Kansas State from 1991-94 and was named team captain as a senior. Ekeler was named National Special Teams Player of the Year in 1994 by George Michael Sports Machine, a popular national sports show at the time.
Ekeler earned his bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Kansas State in 1995. He and his wife, Barbie, have a son, J.J., and daughters Cameryn, Abigail and Bella.