ISR Colts/Notre Dame Beat Writer
SOUTH BEND, IN – Since the week started, it has been announced that Notre Dame juniors Stephon Tuitt and George Atkinson III will forego their senior seasons and enter their names in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Tuitt is a 6’6”, 322-pound defensive linemen who recorded Notre Dame’s second-highest single season sack total in 2012 with 12.5. He added 7.5 more this season, but was slowed quite a bit in the early part of the season due to offseason surgery for a sports hernia.
Tuitt’s exit leaves a huge void for the Irish defensive line after nose tackle Louis Nix III also declared himself for the NFL draft. Both Tuitt and Nix figure to be first round selections, even possibly top 15 selections in this year’s draft. Tuitt has the versatility to play either defensive tackle or defensive end in a 4-3 defensive scheme, but should be able to take on the challenge of remaining a 3-4 defensive end.
For Atkinson, there was never a better time than now to leave for the NFL. The son of former Oakland Raiders great, George Atkinson entered the 2013 Notre Dame season as the front-runner to take over the lead running back spot, but saw his playing time dwindle as fellow backs Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston outplayed him as the season moved along.
The backfield for Notre Dame gets even more crowded next season, as Greg Bryant will return from injury, and McDaniel, Folston and Amir Carlisle will all be looking for carries, as well.
Atkinson won’t blow you away with his prowess as a running back, but he is extremely fast – as in track star fast. He would be a good option to return kickoffs (2 kickoff return TD’s in 2012) or be a change-of-pace, third down back in the NFL, but the likelihood of him becoming a team’s feature back are extremely slim.
Atkinson is projected to be picked in the mid-to-late rounds, but will likely fall in the late rounds or be undrafted unless he has a great pre-draft process.
Jake Arthur is a senior writer at the Indy Sports Report covering the Indianapolis Colts and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts and has full media access. You can follow Jake and ISR on Twitter.