January 8, 2014 // Notre Dame Football

George Atkinson Heading to NFL

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George Atkinson Heading to NFL

Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back George Atkinson III (4) is tackled by Temple Owls linebacker Blaze Caponegro (6) at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Stephon Tuitt isn’t the only Notre Dame junior to forgo his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.  On Wednesday reports surfaced that running back George Atkinson was also going to leave Notre Dame early to pursue a career in the NFL.

When Stephon Tuitt announced that he was leaving for the NFL, hardly anyone was surprised.  Even though Tuitt reportedly received a second round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, many draft pundits project Tuitt to be a first round pick in April.  Atkinson, on the other hand, is not projected to be a high pick.  On the contrary, Atkinson received a late round grade from the Advisory Committee.

Atkinson’s future has been in doubt since he was suspended for the Pinstripe Bowl.  ”I haven’t made that decision yet,” head Coach Brian Kelly said when asked about the future of Atkinson following Notre Dame’s win over Rutgers.

Atkinson missing the Pinstripe Bowl was a rather unceremonious ending to a 2013 season that started with high hopes for the one time 4-star wide receiver recruit.  Atkinson began the season at the top of Notre Dame’s running back depth chart.  By the time the Irish closed out the regular season though, Atkinson gained just four carries netting a single yard in the season finale against Stanford.

Despite heading into the season as Notre Dame’s go to back, Atkinson was only able to run for 555 yards and 3 touchdowns with 148 yards coming in a single game – September’s home game versus Oklahoma.  Atkinson only had double digit carries just once more in a single game the rest of the season.

A loaded depth chart at running back may have played a role in Atkinson’s decision to leave early.  Tarean Folston began to establish himself as the top back heading into 2014, Cam McDaniel played a larger role in the offense down the stretch, and Notre Dame will get 2013 5-star running back Greg Bryant back from injury.  Where Atkinson would have fit into the mix was very much into the air as the Irish begin the off-season.

Even with Atkinson’s level of production, his draft prospects likely won’t be as poor as Darius Walker’s were seven years ago.  Walker surprised many by leaving Notre Dame after his junior season following back to back 1,000 yard seasons only to go undrafted in the 2007 NFL Draft.  Unlike Walker though, Atkinson has speed to burn and value as a kick returner that can earn him a draft selection higher than his production might warrant.

Atkinson has the kind of speed and athleticism that are sure to impress scouts and GMs at the NFL combine.  Speed has never been the problem for Atkinson though.  Atkinson was unable to seize the opportunity in front of him in 2013 as Notre Dame’s feature back because he is still very much a work in progress at running back.

While consistency may have been a problem for Atkinson throughout his career, big plays weren’t.  As a freshman Atkinson returned kick-offs for touchdowns against both Michigan State and USC.  As a sophomore, Atkinson had touchdown runs of 56 and 55 yards against Navy and Pitt.  This past year Atkinson’s electrifying 80 yard touchdown run against Oklahoma ignited the Notre Dame Stadium crowd and got the Irish back in the game.

Those big plays combined with the speed and athleticism Atkinson will flash at the combine will get Atkinson in a NFL camp at a bare minimum next fall.

Because of Notre Dame’s depth at running back, replacing Atkinson will not be nearly the daunting task that replacing Stephon Tuitt will be for Notre Dame in 2014.  Atkinson’s departure will open up an additional scholarship for Notre Dame to use on either an additional 5th year senior in 2014 or for another member of the #GoldenArmy14 that Notre Dame is set to sign next month.

Comments to this Article

  • Storespook commented on January 8th, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Declaring for the draft. Somewhat surprising but maybe the suspension from the bowl game didn’t sit well. I wish him luck because given his athleticism, I still think he’ll need a lot of luck.

    [Reply]

    JC replied on January 8th, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Kudos Storespook,

    Another case of bad chemistry with BK. I too, wish GAIII all the best. With his speed, it is likely he will get the proper training in the NFL.

    [Reply]

    Clark replied on January 9th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    When they figure out how to turn his 37 steps to make 1 cut, into 1-2 steps to make 1 cut he MIGHT be okay.. until then, good riddance, thank god he is leaving, and not taking carries away from the outstanding 2 freshman (soon to be soph.) we have!

    [Reply]

  • jimbasil commented on January 9th, 2014 at 12:16 am

    This is not an I Hate Kelly Post, let’s get that clear right away. However, he, Kelly, has been just awful in his use of RB’s and the run game this year and GAIII was the most misused of the bunch – after Rees of course. Saying he lacked consistency is a media fallacy. Like a thoroughbred he needed to be played far more and far more consistently than he was. I don’t know what it is with Kelly, but he either ignores the talent or he doesn’t know some of talent his talented players have. It could be he’s never had this type of talent to work with before and doesn’t see it when in front of him. (He sees all things fitting into the same slot – round peg/square hole)

    Good for GAIII getting out from under Kelly’s stubbornness/blindness (I call arrogance) and moving on. I wish the best for him though I do think he should have transferred to another school and worked out = finished his degree.

    [Reply]

    JC replied on January 9th, 2014 at 12:54 am

    Kudos jim,

    Why lay on the railroad tracks for King Kelly? I suspect we are just warming up for the mass exodus yet to come! BK really needs to get his anger under control! Tweeting during a team meal? Are you kidding me! GAIII leaving fits the crime???

    [Reply]

    jimbasil replied on January 9th, 2014 at 1:26 am

    Yeah, I read that tweet and if GAIII was accurate in his description of the moment, well, Kelly and Co. really need to take a look at what century they’re coaching in. I’d agree kids today are stuck in their Phones – texting and what-not (hate that phrase but it’s appropriate there) far too much. It’s an epidemic, an addiction I can see only as getting worse. But Kelly and his disproportionate anger is an issue. His arrogance is also an issue. He loves the spotlight a little too much – like the Prince who becomes the accepted “upstart” King.

    But I do think there is a very good coach underneath it all, he just needs to believe being a jerk doesn’t help.

    Peace JC

    [Reply]

    jimbasil replied on January 9th, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Also, do you really believe more will be wanting out from ND because of Kelly’s arrogance? Who or how many?

    JC replied on January 9th, 2014 at 2:20 am

    Well Jim,

    I don’t have an imaginary direct hotline ‘red’ phone like duranko. So I won’t speculate on who and how many. Albeit, I am not convinced BK can get over ‘little guy syndrome’ at this stage of his career.

    Only time will tell.

    jimbasil replied on January 9th, 2014 at 9:49 am

    @JC

    I see, well I agree and think this is an issue that needs attention.

    jeff replied on January 9th, 2014 at 2:33 am

    BK never gives his RBs enough carries to get a feel for the game. I dont care for his style of giving GA111 9 carries, Cam 7 carries, and Folston 13 carries. I believe if you made one of these guys the Bell Cow especially Greg Bryant and gave one of them 25 plus touches a game a Superstar would emerge.

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on January 9th, 2014 at 12:33 am

    .” Atkinson tweeted, and quickly deleted, that he was suspended because he had been texting during a team meal, something he said he had done all season. Kelly said after the 29-16 win over Rutgers that he had not made a decision on Atkinson’s future with the program.

    Well Frank,

    You left out the best part. “texting during a team meal” a real killer non-compliance issue with GAIII. More going on here than meets the eye!

    [Reply]

    jeff replied on January 9th, 2014 at 2:40 am

    JC

    Seems like a petty thing to get left behind for. Obviously more going on than what we know at this point. GA111 always seemed to be one of BKs favorites so i was shocked when this happened. What if it had been TR texting would he have gotten the same treatment.

    [Reply]

    JC replied on January 9th, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Hahaha TR? No comment! Well, it is already a colorful start to the off season. Par for the course for BK! Hahaha you’re still making me laugh over your TR comment!!! Divorces are ugly! It was either a Jimmy Clausen moment or a BK pretty purple face moment!

    Either way ND loses!

    [Reply]

  • Geoff G commented on January 9th, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Foolish decision for GAIII in my opinion. Would love to see him succeed in the NFL, but odds are against him. Should have stayed and earned his degree but best of luck to him.

    [Reply]

    jimbasil replied on January 9th, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Actually, it looks to be more of a half bad half good decision. He should have transferred to another school, but definitely he should get out from under Kelly’s overbearing nature.

    [Reply]

  • drew commented on January 9th, 2014 at 7:22 am

    He could have been a very good safety. Too stiff for a wide out,too upright for running back.As a d.b. with speed & size he would be looked as a viable player. That was his ticket to the pros.Now he is just another guy. Too bad -go irish-

    [Reply]

    Tim replied on January 9th, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I really doubt that he would’ve been a good safety. He has no agility, no quick feet. He runs in straight lines, that is all.

    Put him on a Canadian football field and he will be a beast.

    [Reply]

  • JG commented on January 9th, 2014 at 7:22 am

    His old man went on radio and bashed how BK ran the offense. Did anyone think he was actually going to see the field again at ND? GA3 was soft…don’t get me wrong, he’s the best back ever at running to the sideline and MAYBE turning up field, but he refuses to hit the hole with any power, can’t catch a ball out of the backfield and unless there was a hole the size of Charlie Sr’s waist, he couldn’t get through it.

    What he will find out in the NFL is that everyone is fast and his speed won’t be his saving grace.

    He will be an UDFA and maybe land on a practice squad as a scout QB so he can imitate Cam, RG3, Kapernick, so the defense has someone with speed that they can absolutely hammer in practice.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 9th, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    JG or JC??

    Based on the lack of a death threat or Hhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahha following the comments this must be a new member.

    If so, welcome aboard

    [Reply]

    JC replied on January 9th, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Amazing Shazgundy-SFBoberia team,

    You have the same off the page haha as your mental leader SFB! Or is it Booby like SFR coined it? Nice circus show with no intellectual discomfort whatsoever.

    Howbeit, definitely on par with “blowing more chunks of RC Moon Pies” As duranko so elegantly spoke. Good Job!

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on January 9th, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    “JC was discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named him Squishy, which of course in German means ‘a whale’s vagina.’”

    [Reply]

    JC replied on January 9th, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    The ‘Three Stooges’ (ShazBoobyGundy)are alive and well on this site! Especially, with interjecting more filthy vulgarness as usual to espouse their true intellect.

    Is that the best you got? Please entertain us!

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 9th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Wait, so your telling me that Finkle is Einhorn?

    Shazamrock replied on January 9th, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Positive fact:

    Actually there were 5 Stooges.

    He left out JC-curly joe, and JC-Shemp.

    Yunck, ynuck, ynuck!

  • Jeff Merritt commented on January 9th, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I’m surprised that so many of you think this is about Brian Kelly. I think Atkinson saw the writing on the wall, he would be the odd man out of the running back rotation. He simply wasn’t that good. He could break one every now and then, but he wasn’t very consistent. He wouldn’t run north and south, he struggled identifying his keys, and he struggled catching the ball.

    The depth at running back is becoming ridiculous. I know there is a lot of excitement over Folston and for good reason, but Bryant is going to be a star.

    [Reply]

    jimbasil replied on January 9th, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I agree the position at RB has become very strong with Folston and Bryant additions. I also think GAIII was put in on certain plays – last year and this year where he was only given lateral runs instead of between the tackle runs. The run game was ill used – Kelly (with a weak armed inaccurate stationary QB) decided early on in the season the run game would be used sparingly (SMH) and GAIII wasn’t going to be used for more than one play every now and again. Sure, when GAIII was on the field the defensed keyed on him. Instead of using him in sets in series after series not tipping off his offense, Kelly naturally used him once and then not again for sometime later. Just dumb in-game coaching. (And I agree with you, GA doesn’t appear to be much of a pass catcher).

    [Reply]

    Storespook replied on January 9th, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    If that injury heals, I think he will be a factor. I still love how FOLSTON ran when afforded the opportunity to play. I don’t think GA-3 will find a lot of success in the NFL. I could be wrong but I think he needed more college prep work.

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on January 9th, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Great call Jeff.

    Atkinson was given the starting job to start the season along with the kickoff return duties.

    It didn’t take most of us very long to realize that Cam was the one you could depend on to get a first down in a 3rd and 1 or 2.

    Or that Folston hit the hole better, read his blocks better, and could actually break tackles and make people miss.

    If it’s pure speed at running back you’re looking for, Carlise, should he continue to develop, will be able to provide that.

    Now add Bryant and we will have the power back that we have been missing.

    I think GAIII should have transferred and gone and played for Chuck Martin.
    Another year of college, and college coaching would have served him well.

    Now he will probably need to break a 53 man NFL roster as a free agent with a franchise who won’t be eager to handover a roster spot to a free agent, and then also provide a contract all in the hopes of coaching him up.

    Not saying it can’t be done, but the odds are against him.
    I think Ryan Grant was the last ND running back to succeed following that path. I wish GAIII all the best!

    [Reply]

  • mar commented on January 9th, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Little Napoleon at it again. How often has this been replayed? Exceptional talent going out the door and leaving the program of one of the premier institutions.
    Yes it happens at other programs but clearly not at this rate and
    with prime talent. How many premier candidates’ early departure has been influenced by this tyrant.
    He has serious personality issues (disorders), nasty, vindictive, enraged, red faced, vein-a-popping,berating, cursing and swearing at these young kids in front of millions.on Saturday
    I see other coaches deal with mistakes with understanding and support.
    Candidates and their parents are watching. I am an ardent fan of ND but as a parent would I encourage my son to enroll and be subjected to this kind of “coaching”? Not on your life.
    Too much talent has been thrown under the bus by this megalomaniac.The administration should get involved and straighten this guy out. He paints a bad picture for this institution.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 9th, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Too bad your son won’t be playing for ND.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 9th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Exactly how tall are you and where did you get your degree in Psychology? Fascinating insights although I’m sure you just violated some sore of patient confidentiality agreement by discussing your diagnosis of him with all of us.

    How long have you been seeing him for counseling?

    Again, fascinating and how lucky we are to have somebody on here with such a close relationship with the head coach of ND.

    [Reply]

    JC replied on January 9th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Ooooooo the know all see all ‘wonderboy’ Dr. ShazBoobyGundy. It’s called the HIPAA LAW genius. Which has nothing to do with rendering a public visual assessment by mar!

    What else do you have in authoritative medical armamentarium besides a severe case of acatalepsia?
    Please entertain us.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 9th, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    HIPAA? You know I don’t speak Spanish.

    JC replied on January 9th, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    Hay algu’n adulto acompanan’dote?

    I don’t know what makes you so dumb but it really works!

  • bj commented on January 9th, 2014 at 11:49 am

    where was kelly swearing at these kids ?

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on January 9th, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    bj…

    I got some good news and I got some bad news.

    First the good news, Michigan fired your guy Al Borges so he is now completely available.

    Now the bad news, Michigan fired your guy Al Borges so now he is completely available.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 9th, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    It also appears Kiffin is off the market as well. The charmed life continues at Bama.

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on January 9th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Charmed Life?

    Him and his throphy wife just moved from Southern California to Tuscaloosa Alabama.

    I can see it now…

    Lane Kiffin: “Let me ask you, how do you get mud in the tires?”

    Alabama fan: “that’s just a figure of speech. We’re famous for our mud”

    Mrs Kiffin” “Famous for your mud? How’s your Chineese food?”

    duranko replied on January 9th, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Saban has made some incredible hires as a head coach, Jimbo Fisher, Will
    Muschamps (a great defensive coordinator) Jim McElwain, Major Applewhite, Kirby Smart and Nussmeier.

    But Kiffin is a different breed of cat. Nick is king in Tuscaloosa, but “Goat Boy” Kiffin will, in a certain time and place, foul the Crimson Tide nest.

    Kiffin is NOT a good human being.

  • Rich commented on January 9th, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I thought you had to be very good to try and go into the draft. He never reached expectations at ND and there’s no reason to believe he will be a success in the NFL. He will probably go late in the third round, if he’s lucky. Will ND miss him….I say no way. He was the “Prince of Potential” that couldn’t cut it at ND. He showed flashes of speed but never really was consistent enough to win an everyday job. Good luck to him! Go Irish!!

    [Reply]

  • Geoff G commented on January 9th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Not sure why many on this board are making it out to be a BK problem/fault. I don’t believe for a second that GAIII was suspended for the game because he used his cell phone during dinner. Come on guys, there is always more to the story. When you got in trouble in school as a kid did you always go home and tell your parent’s exactly what happened when they questioned you? Hell no, you told them pieces of a story and left out the worst parts that would get you in trouble.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 9th, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    C’mon Geoff your being to reasonable. Many people on here have inside info and some were even at the pre game meal in question.

    [Reply]

  • VicPaul commented on January 9th, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    This is about BK??? You guys are funny. If GA3 has any NFL aspirations, this is the year for him to go for it. He would get no touches next year at RB and I’d say minimal ones at kickoffs. At least now he has a body of work scouts can look at and with his speed he’ll test well at the combine. As for people saying he should transfer, he’d have to sit out for a year, only 5th year players can transfer without penalty.

    [Reply]

    jeff replied on January 9th, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    VicPaul
    I wouldve liked to see him stay and get his Degree and continue to work hard at becoming a better football player. Barring injury he would have an opportunity at the NFL following his senior year. Plus GA3 and his brother could graduate together with degree in hand.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on January 9th, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Josh Atkinson staying is pretty nice.

    He’s always been enthusiastic on the sideline, but never
    really found his way at defensive back.

    He’s well down the roster at slot, but it would be nice if
    he could get into one of the routs, and sneak in a touchdown.

    In 2013, Luke Massa and Spond generated “Notre Dame moments” even though their contributions were limited.

    [Reply]

  • Evan commented on January 9th, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    GAIII was given his opportunities. End of story. Not BK’s fault, just his. He had no choice but to move on. Folston and Bryant are the future.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on January 9th, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Isaih Crowell, former Georgia Stud had over 1100 yards at Alabama State and averaged 6.6 a carry.

    Tre Mason was Tre Mason. Lache Seastrunk, Henry Josey, Storm Johnson,
    Kapri Bibbs (CSU), Bishop Sankey. These guys have some body of work.

    And before you dis CSU, (1) watch what he did against WSU (2) look carefully at Matt Forte’s college.

    Then of course there are Carlos Hyde and Kadeem Carey.

    Some guys here with SERIOUS body of work at RB. Plus the
    “novelty act” of Black Mamba, DeAnthony Thomas.

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on January 9th, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    http://www.southbendtribune.com/sports/college/notredame/football/notre-dame-football-atkinson-to-leave-nd-for-nfl-draft/article_0e5dd194-78a3-11e3-99c1-001a4bcf6878.html

    [Reply]

  • Ron Burgundy commented on January 9th, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Apparently DD caught the poor academic judgment bug.

    [Reply]

  • jimbasil commented on January 9th, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Yikes for DD. WTF. He just had Golson as an example and now this. Always stupid issues with ND. What of it?

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on January 9th, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/10270226/davaris-daniels-notre-dame-fighting-irish-suspended-academic-issue

    [Reply]

  • Green Day commented on January 9th, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Not a big BK fan. He can be a jerk but as far as GAIII, good luck making the pro’s. You did not impress me in the least at ND. Although Kelly might not have taught you to run North-South???

    [Reply]

  • Storespook commented on January 10th, 2014 at 12:09 am

    I will digress here but definition of freaking stupidity? The University of Louisville rehiring Bob Petrino WILLINGLY, for a second time.

    When is the spring Blue n Gold game? Has that been scheduled yet?

    [Reply]

    JC replied on January 10th, 2014 at 1:17 am

    I wonder if he got his motorcyle back, his girl friend back and his house back?

    By the way, Stores, they think they just landed the next coming of Saban! The article was oveloaded with thrilled Petrino zealots! Amazing, they claim they just hit the coaching lotto! Haha! What a lovefest!

    [Reply]

  • Jerry Seppanen commented on January 10th, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Brian Kelly is a two bit jerk who prances around like he is mesiah

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on January 10th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Tell us how you really feel.

    [Reply]

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