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Report: Atkinson III Out Vs. OU

Sophomore running back/kick returner George Atkinson III did not make the trip to Oklahoma, according to a report from ESPN.com.

ESPN.com reported this morning that Notre Dame sophomore running back/kick returner George Atkinson III remained on campus and did not make the trip to Norman, Okla., this weekend because of flu-like symptoms.

Although he is listed as the No. 3 running back on the Irish depth chart and had only eight carries for 32 yards in the past two games against Stanford (three carries, 21 yards) and BYU (five carries, 11 yards), Atkinson is the fastest and most explosive threat on offense for the Irish.

He averages 8.1 yards per carry, and his four rushing touchdowns also are the most on the team. Atkinson tallied the game-winner on third down in last weekend’s against BYU when he made an outstanding cut-back run from the two when it looked like he would be thrown for a loss around the five yard-line. His 301 yards rushing trail seniors Theo Riddick (451) and Cierre Wood (393).

Atkinson also was used often last week as a decoy, lining up as a wide receiver before coming into motion across the backfield on running plays. In place of the zone read, that helped keep the Cougars defense occupied with Atkinson serving as a potential distraction on the jet sweep — a play he eventually scored the winning touchdown on.

Atkinson also is the team’s top kickoff return man. The Irish have returned only 10 kickoffs this season, with Atkinson having eight of them for 155 yards. Earlier this week, head coach Brian Kelly admitted that Irish special teams have to do a much better job blocking to help spring Atkinson, who had touchdown returns last year against Michigan State and USC.

Sophomore Cam McDaniel is expected to take Atkinson’s role in both capacities. McDaniel has 20 carries this year for 114 yards (5.7 yards per attempt) and one touchdown, and one kickoff return for 25 yards.

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