Skip to content

Trio of unproven running backs should surprise

May 22, 2013, 3:14 PM EST

Amir Carlisle

With Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood gone from the Irish backfield, the Notre Dame running game is missing its two leading men from 2012. Yet there isn’t a huge worry about what comes next. Even with Riddick’s surprising, hard charging senior season and Wood’s three seasons in (and around) the starting lineup, there’s every belief that the Irish running game will be just fine.

That comfort probably comes because the depth chart behind Riddick and Wood features some intriguing prospects. Lead among them is George Atkinson. If it’s possible to call a season where a back averages more than seven yards a carry disappointing, Atkinson’s 2012 was a sophomore slump. He wasn’t special on special teams, he ran somewhat timidly at times, and never forced the coaching staff to get the ball into his hands.

But that doesn’t make him any less intriguing of an athlete. A good spring has the coaching staff saying all the right things. At 215 pounds and with elite sprinter speed, Atkinson is a home run threat waiting to happen. He’s the type of athlete that Notre Dame fans haven’t seen too often in an Irish uniform, and found his way onto Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks List.

George Atkinson III, Notre Dame, RB-KR: The reserve Irish running back has good size at 215 pounds to go with blazing speed. Last year, he ran a 10.36 100-meter dash at the Big East track championships. Even though it was a wind-aided time, it wasn’t much over the legal-limit and shows a gear Notre Dame football fans hadn’t seen much of in a few years.

But that’s not all the Irish have in the backfield. While Atkinson will likely get the first chance to take the starting job, both Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel should get significant touches in this Irish offense.

Head coach Brian Kelly talked about both players during his Town Hall chat with Tim Brown. He didn’t necessarily say anything we haven’t already heard, but he did confirm that after two seasons of playing mostly mop-up minutes and filling in as a jack-of-all-trades, that McDaniel is ready to help the Irish win.

“I really like the fact that we’ve got a couple of guys at the running back position that have gone kind of under the radar that really could help us,” Kelly said. “Cam McDaniel is a guy that people dismiss right away. He’s 5-foot-9 and he doesn’t have the prototypical speed of the great backs, but god, he does everything. He does all the jobs that you want to win games.”

Kelly also talked up Carlisle, who was featured during the “Strong & True” documentary with his hard luck collarbone injury. After sitting out last year with a broken ankle after transferring in from USC, the injury made some doubt his ability to be an every down player, but Kelly has a chance to use Carlisle as a true hybrid slot player we haven’t seen in the Irish offense.

“And then we have a guy that’s not as big, who transferred in,” Kelly said of Carlisle. “But he’s got great speed and great ball skills. I think both of those kids have a chance to really impact our offense and really make us very versatile in the things that we can do.”

Versatility will need to be on display if Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin want to find enough touches for the trio. But with Atkinson looking the part of a lead back and McDaniel and Carlisle too good to keep off the field, it will be fun to watch the running game take shape.

Latest Posts
  1. Mailbag: Spring football, position changes and feeding the trolls

    Feb 28, 2015, 2:48 PM EST

    Joe Schmidt Joe Schmidt

    Well crew, I’ve gotta say… I’m a little underwhelmed by the mailbag question. And in the 150+ comments of people screaming at each other about mostly stupid stuff, I think I speak for everybody when I say:

  2. RIP Father Ted

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    Theodore Hesburgh

    Former Notre Dame president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., died Thursday night on campus. Father Ted was 97. He said his final mass on Thursday, the day he passed away.

  3. Spring Solutions: Secondary

    Feb 26, 2015, 3:24 PM EST

    Matthias Farley

    Gone are Cody Riggs and Austin Collinsworth. Returning is a safety position that’s struggled, another transfer, a young cornerback on the rise, and (hopefully) an exiled potential star.

    Welcome to the Notre Dame secondary. New coaching, same scheme, different players, and one of 2015’s great unknowns.

  4. Mailbag: Now open

    Feb 25, 2015, 2:34 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    As we get a few extra weeks to prep for spring practice, let’s open the mailbag.

  5. Spring solutions: Wide receivers

    Feb 24, 2015, 6:56 PM EST

    William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge

    A position that looked like a huge question mark entering the 2014 season ended the year with an embarrassment of riches. After watching Will Fuller emerge with a record-setting sophomore season, the loss of DaVaris Daniels and departure of TJ Jones didn’t do anything to slow the Irish passing game down.

  6. All signs (still) point to Keith Gilmore as defensive line coach

    Feb 24, 2015, 1:34 PM EST

    Keith Gilmore

    None of Notre Dame’s coaching changes are official yet. But more arrows point to North Carolina defensive line coach Keith Gilmore joining the Irish staff in the same role.

  7. Spring solutions: Offensive Line

    Feb 23, 2015, 12:43 AM EST

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    There might not be a deeper unit on the roster than the offensive line. After a lack of depth made it nearly impossible to practice at full speed heading into the 2012 BCS title game, Notre Dame enters the 2015 season with a two-deep most teams would pay for.

  8. Notre Dame moves back start of spring practice

    Feb 20, 2015, 10:48 AM EST

    C.J. Prosise C.J. Prosise

    Whether it’s the Siberian Express rolling through most of the country (sorry, guys) or the grand reshuffling taking place on Brian Kelly’s coaching staff, Notre Dame announced a delay in the kickoff of spring practice.

  9. Spring solutions: Tight ends

    Feb 19, 2015, 11:44 AM EST

    Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

    After an incredibly impressive run at the position, Notre Dame enters spring practice with nothing but question marks at tight end. After Brian Kelly watched Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas and now Ben Koyack churn through his program, he’ll spend spring trying to figure out what exactly he has at the position.

  10. With smoke circling Gilmore and Denson, coaching staff coming into focus

    Feb 18, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    Autry Denson AP

    On Tuesday, a flurry of reports had Brian Kelly focusing in on the final pieces of his reshuffled coaching staff. They include two likely additions, one transition, and a position shift.

  11. Notre Dame announces graduate transfer of Avery Sebastian

    Feb 18, 2015, 11:18 AM EST

    Mike Jensen, Avery Sebastian Mike Jensen, Avery Sebastian

    A few days after safety Avery Sebastian announced his intentions, Notre Dame made the commitment and graduate transfer of the former Cal safety official. Sebastian will enroll in graduate school and join the team in June.

  12. Spring solutions: Running backs

    Feb 17, 2015, 4:12 PM EST

    Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma

    After missing out on a running back in the 2014 recruiting cycle, a once crowded depth chart now only features Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. Two backs that once worried about having to find snaps will now have all the work they could ever want, with the majority of spring spent doing everything they can to stay healthy.

  13. Spring solutions: Quarterbacks

    Feb 16, 2015, 2:20 PM EST

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    One of the most impressive statistical seasons in school history was flushed down the toilet when Everett Golson could not stop turning the football over. With fumbles, poor decision-making and some plain bad luck plaguing Golson’s otherwise exceptional season, Brian Kelly chose Malik Zaire to be his starter for the Music City Bowl.

  14. Mailbag: What to expect from the defense?

    Feb 16, 2015, 8:45 AM EST

    Brian Van Gorder Brian Van Gorder

    Finishing up a holiday weekend with part three of the mailbag.

  15. Mailbag, Part 2: What to do with the QBs?

    Feb 14, 2015, 7:18 PM EST

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Let’s continue with the mailbag, starting with my guess as to how the quarterback battle this spring ends up.

  16. Torii Hunter Jr. joins the Irish baseball team

    Feb 14, 2015, 1:42 PM EST

    Torii Hunter Jr., Corey Robinson, Ben Koyack Torii Hunter Jr., Corey Robinson, Ben Koyack

    Notre Dame has its next two-sport athlete. Sophomore wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. has joined the baseball team, UND.com announced.

  17. Mailbag: Digging into some big changes

    Feb 13, 2015, 11:55 AM EST

    BSU Practice BSU Practice

    We’re going to break up this mailbag into a few different sections as well. With a lot of changes swirling through Brian Kelly’s football program, there’s plenty to cover on a usually slow February weekend.

  18. Notre Dame lands Cal graduate transfer Avery Sebastian

    Feb 12, 2015, 10:18 PM EST

    Mike Jensen, Avery Sebastian Mike Jensen, Avery Sebastian

    Brian Kelly hinted that Notre Dame wasn’t finished adding players to the roster on Signing Day. And on Thursday night, Kelly and the Irish coaching staff shored up one of their major deficiencies by adding Cal graduate transfer Avery Sebastian.

  19. Boise State’s Mike Sanford reportedly joining Notre Dame’s staff

    Feb 11, 2015, 1:38 PM EST

    BSU Practice BSU Practice

    Just days after losing Tony Alford, it looks like Brian Kelly is making a large move on his offensive coaching staff. Multiple reports have Boise State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford joining Notre Dame’s offensive staff.

  20. Mailbag: Now Open

    Feb 11, 2015, 12:14 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    Wasn’t this supposed to be a slow week? We’ve got coaching searches, potential transfers and so much more going on. Spring practice begins in three weeks. Let’s get a mailbag going. Drop your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.