CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Mike Ekeler, who has coached at six Power 5 programs and most recently worked at North Texas, has been hired as North Carolina’s linebackers coach, UNC head coach Larry Fedora announced Friday.
Ekeler was North Texas’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2016, working for head coach Seth Littrell, a former UNC assistant. Ekeler also has ties to the current UNC staff working with current defensive coordinator John Papuchis at LSU and Nebraska. Ekeler, Papuchis and defensive backs coach Terry Joseph were all graduate assistants at LSU under Les Miles in 2006.
“We’re thrilled to add Mike to our coaching staff,” said head coach Larry Fedora. “He’s a well-respected, energetic coach who has worked with other members of our defensive staff in the past, which will make the transition to Carolina that much easier. He’s an outstanding coach and recruiter who will be a great fit for our program. We look forward to having Mike and his wife and kids join the UNC family.”
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).
Prior to joining the Mean Green, he spent two seasons as inside linebackers coach at Georgia and has also worked at USC, Indiana, Nebraska, LSU and Oklahoma.
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 a 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, he 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 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 played linebacker for Bill Snyder at Kansas State from 1991-94 and was named team captain as a senior.
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.