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Atkinson shows himself up to the challenge

Apr 22, 2013, 10:47 AM EST

Josh Atkinson

We’ll likely spend the next month or two trying to make heads or tails of the spring game. Part of that is the zero-sum variety of an intersquad scrimmage. Is a big play made by the offense a bad play by the defense? Does a good pass rush mean the offensive line is playing poorly?

With Notre Dame’s depth chart fairly well established, Saturday’s game was an opportunity to watch some of the fringe players make their presence known. One player who helped himself out was cornerback Josh Atkinson. Starting opposite KeiVarae Russell, Atkinson was active all afternoon — playing a nice overall ball game and winning his share of battles in coverage.

With Bennett Jackson out this spring and Lo Wood intentionally slowed down by the coaching staff as he recovers from injury, Atkinson was given a ton of snaps at cornerback on Saturday. He appeared to make good use of them. Even on his penalty for pass interference, Atkinson was in position, though still needing a reminder to turn and look for the football.

For the afternoon, Atkinson filled the stat line with six tackles and a pass breakup, putting a nice performance on tape at the right time. With Jalen Brown competing for time as well, the Irish coaching staff has to feel like its rotation is in place with Russell and Jackson, and Wood’s strong return from an achilles injury giving the Irish three bodies for two spots. If Atkinson and Brown want a chance to get on the field, they’ll need to do it before incoming freshmen Cole Luke, Devin Butler and Rashad Kinlaw join the competition.

Tracking Josh’s development has been interesting. While gifted with speed almost on par with his brother, Atkinson has taken some time to get comfortable at cornerback. Part of that comes from athleticism that isn’t quite elite, at a position where hiding any deficiency is difficult.

But entering his junior season, Atkinson had a performance on Saturday that should give the defensive staff the confidence that he can play in this secondary if needed. It may have taken a little longer than most expected, but it is coming at the right time.

  1. gtizzo - Apr 22, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Don’t pick it apart to much Keith,

    After all the defense was the better of the two units last season. When we get right down to it how many defenses (on the Irish schedule) will be as good as ND’s? Maybe both Michigan teams, Stanford. I suppose you could throw in Oklahoma if they can ever get there act together. USC has the talent to have a great defense but they don’t seem to want to tackle. Here is a more interesting question how many offenses have more question marks then ND’s? USC (new QB), Michigan (new QB), Michigan State (needs something at the receiver position), Oklahoma (new QB), My thoughts: We have our QB in Golson, we have Daniels who was a bright spot in the BCS title game. We have a long tradition of great tight ends so no problems there. When we get right down to it everyone knows who the starting running back is…Cam McDaniel.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 23, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Just a few points to rebut…

      I think Michigan has a QB (Gardener?) that took over for shoeless Joe Robinson half way through the year

      And..

      Carlisle will be the starting Running back. I’m confident in saying that without seeing him because I saw the rest of the RB’s in the spring game. It’s probably gonna be Carlisle

  2. bernhtp - Apr 22, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Josh certainly showed his speed and kept up with receivers step for step, but I saw him repeatedly do the Gary Gray and not turn toward the ball. He was flagged for interference (twice, right?) and I saw a couple of more that could have been called.

    While he certainly has the speed to play the position at a high level, his hips don’t seem to be as loose as Russell’s for the ability to run full speed while turned. Maybe it’s just skill development.

    • nudeman - Apr 22, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      I was waiting for this post.
      You had said much the same on another article and it’s pretty much diametrically opposed to what Keith’s written.

      All I know is Josh has his work cut out.
      He’s still behind Jackson and Wood, right? And he’s got Cole Luke coming in this Fall.

      • bernhtp - Apr 22, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        I’m really not sure what Keith saw that I missed. Maybe he got access to video that wasn’t broadcast or talked to coaches that saw way more from other angles. But I saw two bad PI penalties (one was declined because Daniels caught it anyway despite JA hanging all over him), a badly-missed tackle of TJ Jones, and what would often be called PI against Daniels in the endzone because, again, he put his hand into Daniels’ face without turning toward the ball.

        JA did have a very good tackle of Niklas, though it was after Nklas had already stepped out of bounds.

      • ndirish10 - Apr 22, 2013 at 6:39 PM

        nude,

        Not sure but Keith probably sees Josh as a more than capable corner as he sees George as a more than capable runningback. I’ve yet to see anything that would lead me to believe that George is an everydown back. If only he developed receiver hands…

        bern,

        It seems both Atkinson brothers lack football hip movement.

  3. 11thstreetmafia - Apr 22, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    I don’t think we need to overanalyze this any further.——It simply appears that the twins just aren’t good enough at football to be key parts of the team. Both guys are fine and do bring something to the table, but each will move down the charts after the freshman start practicing this Fall.

  4. dudeacow - Apr 22, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    When is ND’s mini combine, and are the results going to be made public? I’m interested in the Atkinsons’ 40 times.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 23, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      The results are for “internal use only”… So only BK, his staff, and FNC111 have them.

  5. padomer - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    I don’t think enough praise is placed upon Bennett Jackson. He went from question mark last year to rock this year. I’ve even heard some project him as a first rd talent! I remember it was him last year who was getting the CJ Prosise like hype but left us all with the “believe it when see it” opinion.

    I think we’ve become jaded from hearing spring hype, mostly from the Weis era. After hearing things like “darius fleming is living up to the bill, look out for him, or steve filer is going to have 10+ sacks, etc.” That said, it seems this time around, in the Kelly era, Spring hype has sort of lived up to expectation.

  6. padomer - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    therefore hopefully JA can push and be that solid Nickel corner

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