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 the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 38-0. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Football's Spring Questions: Who Carries The Rock For The Irish?

Only 16 days remain until Notre Dame Football officially kicks off spring practice 2013. During that time Slap the Sign will look at some of the most pressing questions that face the Irish this Spring and in the Fall. Springtime always brings questions for the Notre Dame Football team. However, unlike years past, the Irish have some excellent answers to their questions. Fans no longer have to debate whether an inexperienced and average player would beat out the experienced under performing player. Notre Dame Football’s roster is filled with talented players who have been quietly waiting their turn.

Who is Notre Dame’s Running Back against Temple?

Last year, Notre Dame had a rushing attack that collected 2462 yards against its opponents. This was Notre Dame’s key to success on Offense. Notre Dame Football lost 1659 of these yards to graduation. That total represents 67.4% of their attack on the ground. They must now replace that total with players who are capable of closing this gap.

The natural choice would be George Atkinson III who rushed for 361 yards on 51 attempts. Atkinson was Notre Dame Football’s biggest ‘homerun’ threat in 2012. He has 4.3 or 4.4 speed. Add that to a 6-1 210lbs frame and Notre Dame has a prototypical NFL Running Back who is ready to carry the load in 2013.

But, will the light bulb go on for Atkinson this season? He tends to dance too much. He is always looking for the cut back that will lead to the big run. This can lead to the spectacular runs that we have seen. However, it can also lead to him being tackled for loss frequently, which we have also seen.

Atkinson should be the starter for the Fighting Irish in 2013. He has all of the tools that are needed to be a great Running Back. Having a 1000-yard season does not seem a stretch for him. But, even if he does, Notre Dame is still seeking 700 yards from a group of unproven Running Backs.

Three seasons of Notre Dame Football under Brian Kelly have seen him utilize a two-back system. Typically, it is a speed back or an Off-Tackle type of runner and a power back or a Inside the Tackles guy. 2010-2012, Cierre Wood was Off-Tackle runner. The Inside the Tackles Runner has been Robert Hughes, Jonas Gray and Theo Riddick. It is likely that Notre Dame Football continues this trend this season.

Atkinson is definitely more of a Speed back. Therefore, someone will need to jump in to fill the role of the Power back. Notre Dame has Carlisle, Mahone, McDaniel, Folston and Bryant on scholarship to fight for that spot. Carlisle and Folston seem to be the outside runners. The other three are more likely to make the field because of what they bring to the table.

McDaniel has been excellent when he has been given  opportunities. However, most of his carries have been in “mop up” duty. If he can show in practice that he can do it against the big boys, he would be an excellent inside runner for the Fighting Irish.

Mahone has yet to see action in a Notre Dame uniform. However, he has the size and tools needed for the job. This Spring will be critical as to whether or not he will make the field in 2013.

Finally, Bryant is probably the most talented of the Running Backs on Notre Dame’s roster aside from Atkinson. He is physically ready to play college football. Based on his high school film, he seems like he is an adept runner even at a young age.

Notre Dame needs their second guy to be a successful. It is a big question but the Irish seem to have several options at the position. At the end of the season, Bryant will definitely be that guy. But, Notre Dame may start off with Mahone or McDaniel until Bryant is ready to be productive as a Running Back.

Tags: Football Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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