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Kelly spurs Atkinson's growth

By Pete Byrne
Published On: Oct 02 2013 10:16:19 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 02 2013 10:42:40 PM CDT

Notre Dame running back George Atkinson is one of the fastest players in the country and is getting praise from Irish coach Brian Kelly

SOUTH BEND -

Four games into the 2013 season, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had seen enough to know he didn't like what he saw. Particularly from junior running back George Atkinson.

"He was not running with the kind of physical presence that we wanted", Kelly said.

So Kelly took his junior running back to the film room, and showed him clip, after clip, after clip: Examples of why George Atkinson had not developed into the feature back that both he and the coaching staff had expected.

"I had talked to him several times on the sideline that this is how you have to play. You cannot be tackled. You cannot be brought down by the ankles. You have to run through tackles", Kelly preached.

"Isn't this a tackle you should be running through? Shouldn't you be getting through this tackle? How did you get tackled here? It got to the point where we had to physically sit him down and show him clip after clip after clip. These are tackles that you must run through. They can't tackle you. You're 220 pounds."

"Yeah, that's how film sessions work", Atkinson laughed.

Rarely however, has one ever translated so well onto the field. Atkinson responded with a career high 148 rushing yards on 14 carries against Oklahoma.

"It's gratifying to see the development of a young man like George Atkinson, and we saw that against Oklahoma", Kelly said.

At 220 pounds, and with some of the best speed in on the team, Atkinson can go around defenses of through them.

"As long as we're getting positive yards", Atkinson says, "If I've got to run around a guy or through a guy, it's a good run."

The best of those good runs on Saturday was an 80 yard touchdown to start the 3rd quarter. Not only the longest of Atkinsons's career, but the longest by any Notre Dame player in 13 seasons.

"It was all good blocking", Atkinson says. "I did the easy part."

Now question now is: Can he keep it up?

"You create that type of expectation every week. (last Week) doesn't mean anything if I don't come out next week and do the same or do better."

Kelly agrees, the next step is consistency.

"If we can get that on a consistent basis, we've got a very talented player on our hands."