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Atkinson brothers blaze in Big East 100m finals

May 7, 2012, 7:31 PM EST

Atkinson 3

For much of the past decade, the Notre Dame football program has been stuck having to answer questions about being too slow. Over the weekend, George and Josh Atkinson offered two data-points to help make that statement obsolete.

The twin brothers, George a 6-foot-1, 215 pound running back, and Josh, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound cornerback, put up dazzling numbers at the Big East track meet, just weeks after finishing up spring football practice. Josh placed fourth in the finals with a 10.39 sprint while George finished fifth with a 10.46 run. George also clocked a 10.36 time in his preliminary heat. Each ran races that clocked as the fastest times of any freshman football player in the country, and what measured out to be the fourth and fifth fastest times by any college football player running track.

George Atkinson’s speed was on display during the Blue-Gold Game, when the freshman running back dazzled in the open field as he led the offense in rushing yards. Josh, who surprised many by edging his brother in the finals, shows one of the obvious reasons he’s a leading contender for the field cornerback job, with his elite speed going along with his better than average size at cornerback. (For good measure, Josh also qualified for the 200m final, finishing fifth behind Irish freshman Christopher Giesti, who won with a 21.15 sprint.) Josh will still battle Lo Wood for the starting job, but if he beats Wood out, that’ll give the Irish two gifted sprinters playing cornerback if he’s matched with Bennett Jackson. There’s not a lot of depth yet, but both guys can fly.

While Josh will be tasked with covering receivers, George offers one of the most intriguing offensive talents the Irish have had in quite some time. As the most physical of the Irish running backs, he’s a better fit to bang the ball inside than Cierre Wood or Theo Riddick. Yet he’s also one of the most explosive runners in all of college football, with a sprint time that matches him up with any of the fastest speed merchants in America. That kind of skill-set should give new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin plenty of creativity, and forces you to believe the Irish staff will spend the summer finding ways to get the ball in Atkinson’s hands.

With Chris Brown ready to enroll this summer, the Irish are collecting the kind of speed needed to compete at the top of the college football food chain. Brown, who clocked a 10.51 100m during regional qualifying at Hanahan High School, also had a seven-foot high jump last week, a number that would’ve won the Big East Championship this weekend. (He’s also had a 51-foot, 2-inch triple jump in the past, a leap that would’ve also netted him a Big East title.)

Even if Brown is ready to step on the field and contribute immediately, three speedsters don’t make up for an offensive unit that’s in desperate need of home run threats. But after running two of the fastest times to come out of the South Bend in quite some time, it’s clear that there’s an upturn in the making.

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  1. bernhtp - May 7, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    World’class speed is a big need at Notre Dame, especially if you party off campus.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - May 7, 2012 at 8:06 PM

      On the defensive side, we need to recruit cops and cab drivers that can stop the run.

      • clannahaw - May 7, 2012 at 8:47 PM

        What’s John Tenuta up to these days?

  2. richardsmoker - May 7, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    Is Lynch definitely gone?

    • bernhtp - May 8, 2012 at 2:05 AM

      Aaron was offered the position of being one of Carlo’s “my people,” but turned it down and returned to Florida. Go figure.

  3. irishsportstalk - May 7, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    This get’s me pumped for Irish Football! Scheming is important but ND needs top athletes too, in hopes to return to the BCS team.

    Bring on the Midshipmen.

    R. Hochstetler
    http://www.streamofsports.com

  4. irishsportstalk - May 7, 2012 at 9:34 PM

    Thanks for the article. This news gets me pumped for Irish Football! Scheming is important but ND needs top athletes in order to be a BCS team year after year.

    Bring on the Midshipmen,

    R. Hochstetler
    http://www.streamofsports.com

  5. yaketyyacc - May 8, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    keith, great article on george and josh. if josh has this blindinng speed, how about both brothers on offense, if you stop the one running then the other will kill you with his pass catching and vice versa.
    however, you are so right. refreshing to see this kind of speed on a Notre Dame football team.
    Iron out the turnovers, and a difficult schedule is doable.

  6. andy44teg - May 8, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    This has nothing to do with anything going on, but i was reading the comments below the new cleats for the ireland game article and somebody posted this that i thought was interesting:

    “Off the subject but I played for Coach Kelly at Grand Valley, and it drives me nuts when people are already starting to turn on him. Our program was mediocre until he took over and turned it into a D2 powerhouse. When I was there, we could barely get anyone to come out, most of the ‘tickets’ were free and it was still empty. Now, it is a packed house, there is now endzone seating and tailgating and real excitement… multiple national championships. Every program he went to after GVSU he changed… Central… Cincinnati. Give Coach some time to work!! He’s a great coach. And stop being shocked when he’s red in the face screaming on the sidelines… he’s been like that at least since the 90′s. He’s definitely a tough coach but he’s a good guy when he’s not in coaching mode. He’s not there to coddle the players, he’s there to win… and you win when people respect you. Nobody respects a pushover coach. He’s exactly what ND needs… again, give him some time.”

    • joeymagarac - May 8, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      Your post reminds me of an article after the South Florida game, when people were commenting on whether Brian Kelly was too angry and too purple-faced to be coaching college football. The author contacted two of Kelly’s former quarterbacks:

      I watched that game and saw his face and thought, “That was a pretty common sight for me for about three years,” said Brian Brunner, who played quarterback for Kelly at Central Michigan.

      Curt Anes, a record-setting quarterback for Kelly at Grand Valley State, said … “You either fold under his coaching style or you get better. There’s no in between. It’s all about how it’s perceived and how you receive it. I’m a fiery guy myself. He made me better. I was a better quarterback because of Brian Kelly, hands down, without question. If my son is fortunate enough to go to the next level, I would in a heartbeat let him play for coach Kelly. He’s that good.”

    • nudeman - May 8, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      It is hard to disagree with this assessment.

      First, it’s factually true in terms of his past coaching success.
      Second, the BK positives far outweigh any negatives in my view.

      Lastly, in terms of giving him time, I don’t think many of us truly appreciate how far the program had fallen under CW. If you take away his first year (9-3?), the next 4 years were a nice, tight spiral into the dirt. So BK started nearly from scratch. Not saying he had “no talent”; I am saying that he didn’t have nearly enough to win; and other aspects of the program were missing entirely, like a strength & conditioning coach. How does THAT happen?

      BK is undeniably a very good/great recruiter, has assembled a solid staff (Hiestand was a true diamond in the rough), and seems to be the kind of guy one would want to lead young men and be the face of a great University.

  7. latchbeam - May 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Nice work, now contribute to the football team!

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