Notre Dame's Atkinson puts up good numbers

BOB WIENEKE
South Bend Tribune

The fact that former Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III performed relatively well Sunday at the NFL Combine wasn’t a complete surprise, at least not to analyst Scott Wright.

“He kind of did what we thought,” Wright said Sunday night, after Atkinson ran the sixth-fastest time among running backs in the 40-yard dash (4.48 seconds) and had the fourth-best vertical (38 inches) at the position.

The question with the athletic Atkinson is whether that can translate into production.

“He looks the part,” said Wright, who runs the Website DraftCountdown.com. “He just never really translated that on to the field.”

Atkinson was ND’s leading returning rusher entering 2013 but saw his playing time diminish as the season progressed. He ran for 148 yards against Oklahoma and carried 18 times the following week against Arizona State, but over the season’s final seven games, Atkinson’s high mark in carries was eight. He was suspended for the Pinstripe Bowl game against Rutgers.

It’s still probably too early to tell whether or not Atkinson’s day Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will help him earn a spot in the draft or whether he’ll go the free-agent route.

“I think he absolutely is in contention to be drafted,” Wright said, “but you could say that about a lot of guys.”

One former ND player who likely will be drafted is wide receiver TJ Jones, who also participated Sunday. Jones’ numbers for the most part failed to crack the top 15 among the wide receivers testing, but that didn’t mean Jones didn’t impress.

“I think TJ Jones helped himself,” Wright said, pointing to the 4.48 40 that Jones ran.

Wright sees wide receiver as the deepest position in this year’s draft, and projects Jones in the Round 4-5 range.

“I think he’s one of those guys who does everything well but nothing necessarily great,” Wright said. “I think he’s going to be a steal for someone.”

While Jones and Atkinson were going through drills, two former Irish defenders were doing work on the bench press.

Stephon Tuitt, who, like Atkinson left school a year early to enter the draft, put up 31 reps (225 pounds) on the bench.

“That’s a good number and that’s the type of player he is, he’s a power player,” Wright said. “He looks the part.”

Former Irish linebacker Prince Shembo also did bench work on Sunday, registering 26 reps.

“That’s another good number,” said Wright, who projects Shembo as a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker rather than a 4-3.

“Shembo needs to find the right fit,” Wright said.

Sunday’s results

George Atkinson III: 40-Yard Dash: 4.48 seconds (tied for 6th among running backs)

Bench Press: 19 reps (tied 13th at position)

Vertical: 38 inches (tied for 4th)

Broad Jump: 121 inches (tied for 12th)

TJ Jones: 40: 4.48 seconds (not among top 15 wide receivers)

Vertical: 33 inches (not among top 15)

Broad Jump: 119 inches (not among top 15)

3-Cone Drill: 6.82 seconds (tied for 13th at position)

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.27 seconds (not among top 15)

60-Yard Shuttle: 11.45 seconds (9th at position)

Stephon Tuitt: Bench Press: 31 reps (tied for 6th at defensive line)

Prince Shembo: Bench Press: 26 reps (tied for 6th at position)

BWieneke@SBTinfo.com

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Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III (4) rushes the ball against Navy on Nov. 2, 2013, at Notre Dame. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)