After seeing his role in the offense diminished over the course of the season and being suspended from the Pinstripe Bowl, Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III has made the decision to leave the Irish in hopes of getting a job in the NFL.
Atkinson is the third Notre Dame underclassmen to announce his decision to leave the program with a year of eligibility remaining. He joins defensive standouts Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, although the two defensive players have much better odds of being picked early in the upcoming NFL Draft. Atkinson likely would have benefitted by returning to the Irish in 2014 after rushing for 555 yards and three touchdowns. He only had one game this season with over 75 rushing yards. Atkinson was suspended from Notre Dame’s Pinstripe Bowl appearance against Rutgers for a violation of team rules. It had been reported he was texting family during a team meal.
“He look at as an opportunity,” Atkinson’s father, former Oakland Raiders great George Atkinson Jr., said in a telephone interview Wednesday with the Associated Press. ”We did our due diligence and decided to roll the dice with it.”
Notre Dame’s running game should be in decent shape in 2014 without Atkinson returning. Junior Cam McDaniel led the team in rushing this season with 704 yards. Tarean Folston should also be a significant contributor to the offense in 2014.