Breaking Down Notre Dame’s 2013 Running Backs

George Atkinson, BYU
Nov. 17, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back George Atkinson III (4) runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter against BYU at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

As the Irish head into 2013 with a focus on returning to the national title game, they have a lot of key returning pieces that played a large part in their success as a team in last year’s undefeated season.  As with any college team though, there is always personnel turnover, and as the Irish staff start to evaluate talent, we wanted to do the same. With the vacancies left by Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, Notre Dame will turn to 4 kids that are returning, and two big time recruits due to hit campus in the Fall.

Notable Returners

George Atkinson III – It is very obvious that Atkinson has the ability and speed to be a large part of the offense this year. What was evident last year is his struggle to read his blocks, and show enough patience. This is typical of a younger back, but something he needs to work on, and hopefully with experience this will become more a natural tendency for the speedster. Atkinson carried the ball 51 times for 361 yards, and 5 touchdowns, and had a very nice 7.1 yards per carry average. We would like to see him more involved in swing passes out of the backfield also, that would allow him to utilize his speed on the outside.


  • Great speed
  • Great athletic ability
  • Ability to score on every touch

Amir Carlisle – After transferring from USC, Irish fans are still waiting to see what Carlisle can bring to the table. An ankle injury forced the young man from Sunnyvale, CA to be redshirted all of last year, and his misfortune has continued into this year. Carlisle suffered a broken collar-bone in Spring practice, but  all signs indicate he could be “healthy” in time for the season. It’s obvious he possesses very good speed and the ability to cut quickly, but if he can’t stay healthy it’s all for not.


  • Very good speed
  • Good hands
  • Quick and elusive

Cam McDaniel – Although he only carried the ball 23 times in 2012, he was fun to watch. He gained 124 yards on the ground, and averaged 5.4 yards per carry, with 1 rushing touchdown. He has decent to good speed, and always kept the play moving forward. He often found ways to sneak through holes, and break to the outside, and found yardage in situations that looked like there wasn’t any to be had. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and has the ability to pick up his blocking assignment at almost 200 lbs. McDaniel is seeing his fair share of carries during Spring practice, and we hope that carries over to the season as well.


  • Runs low
  • Quick to the hole
  • Ability to bounce outside

Will Mahone – The running-back out of Ohio redshirted in 2012, but should see the field in 2013 in some capacity. A thick compact body, and deceptive speed for his size, we are hoping to see him get some much needed reps in Spring and Fall practice. Can be used in a single back set, or as a lead blocker. We would love to see Will in short yardage situations, as he has the ability to run through or around people. Having a year to better understand the offense and playbook is never a bad thing, but the chances of Mahone being the starter are very slim. We still hold out hopes that Kelly finds a way to get this quick bruiser of a back involved in the offense somehow.


  • Quick feet
  • Punishing style
  • Tough to bring down


While the two new kids may eventually get eventually get redshirted, it is hard to say until they actually arrive for Fall practice. The staff needs to see how quickly they can acclimate themselves with the offense and what they bring to the field. They were both highly sought after, and Kelly will give both these kids a real shot at seeing what they can do, before tagging them with the redshirt label.

Greg Bryant

If you have watched any of his videos then you understand the type of talent that Bryant is bringing with him to South Bend. With offers from college football’s elite programs, the 5’11 197lb back out of Delray Beach, FL has literally every tool a head coach would want. Bryant possesses open field speed, great vision, and can make people miss at the line, and in the open field. Of course he still has to prove it on the field at this level, and we are selfishly hope that happens this year.

Tarean Folston

Folston’s list of suitors is just as impressive as Bryant’s with offers from Florida, Florida St., Alabama, and Oregon (amongst others). You shouldn’t let his 5’9 frame worry you much, because he is built like a tank, and about as hard to stop. He may not quite have the skill set that Bryant does, but still has good speed, very good lateral movement, and the ability to make people miss, often. Folston has nice balance, and can leave a majority of defenders behind in the open field. He may get slapped with the redshirt tag, but only because of the depth in front of him.

Projected 2013 Depth Chart

Starter – George Atkinson III
2nd String – Cam McDaniel
3rd string – Will Mahone
4th string – Greg Bryant
Redshirted – Tarean Folston
*TBD – Amir Carlisle

*If Amir Carlisle is truly healthy by Fall practice, then we expect him to step in as the back-up to Atkinson, and Bryant should also be redshirted along with Folston.

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  1. Not too much faith in Atkinson it seems, I know he is a little lacking in instincts, but he is as big and fast as Eric Dickerson (who also ran a little too upright)lets see how he does with 20 carries.

  2. to author Bob Kollars – re: Amir Carlisle –

    “if he can’t stay healthy, it’s all for NAUGHT.”

    Willie Shakespeare would be really pissed-off if he read your spelling “not.” (;

  3. I honestly think that Bryant will be the #2 back, but run CMC will get plenty of carries too.

    I see Carlisle or Folston moving to Slot with Prosise. With 5 healthy, talented RB remaining in the rotation after moving one of them to Slot receiver it seems like a no-brainer with the lack of depth in the slot.

  4. Knew a girl that was not very attractive, as a matter of fact when it rained it ran off thenbackmofnher head.

  5. Atkinson and Carlisle can also be dangerous when Golson runs the option. Golson is a threat by himself, and hard to defend, but adding the outside speed of GA3/AC could really hurt a defense.

  6. We need a back of the Bettis and Culver type. Period. There comes a time in every game where POWER superseded speed. OH, the good old days.

  7. That photo is not one of Atkinson scoring against Wake Forest. The team is Brigham Young. When did ND last play BYU? They seem to have enough running backs but you never know especially with Amir as one of them. If he ever gets healthy he could and should contribute but thats a big if! I hope Atkinson lives up to their expectations. He has shown sighs of being the real thing but will he hold up over a 12 games season? Let’s hope he doesn’t get hurt in the fall because the rest of the backs seem very young and inexperienced. Go IRISH!

  8. Interesting photo…

    If you look carefully at the backround, you will see that the ghost of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (#35) finally got to dress for another home game!

    “Five foot nuthin, a hunderd and nuthin”

    GO RUDY!

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