Despite losing its two leading rushers from 2012, Notre Dame's backfield looks stacked heading into the 2013 season. Only one player from that group, though, has rushed for the Irish before, so plenty of new faces will take the ball from Everett Golson this year.
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George Atkinson III is the veteran of the group. He showed flashes of explosiveness last year, breaking free for touchdown runs of 56 and 55 yards against Navy and Miami last fall, respectively. However, he was phased out of Notre Dame's offense by the latter part of the season, and he'll likely split time with one or two other backs this year.
That’s where Amir Carlisle comes in to the picture, as well as to-be sophomore Will Mahone and incoming freshman Greg Bryant. Carlisle transferred from USC to Notre Dame last January and missed the 2012 season with an ankle injury, but said prior to the BCS Championship he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to battle for an increased role in the Irish offense.
“I love competition. You have to go against the best to be the best,” Carlisle said. “I know I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent, and at the end of the day, I’m going to compete. Wherever the coaches decide for me to be is where I’m going to be next year.”
Atkinson, Carlisle, Mahone and incoming freshman Tarean Folston earned four-star ratings out of high school, while Bryant earned a five-star label from Rivals.com. To say the least, there’s no shortage of talent from which Chuck Martin, Tony Alford and Brian Kelly can pluck to replace the production of Theo Riddick (190 carries, 917 yards, 5 TD in 2012) and Cierre Wood (114 carries, 742 yards, 4 TD).
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Carlisle does have some experience, rushing for 118 yards in his freshman year with USC in 2011. His best game came against Colorado in Boulder, as Carlisle ran for 90 yards on 10 attempts and caught two passes for 31 yards with a touchdown against the 1-11 Buffs.
Neither Mahone nor Bryant have any college experience, although that probably won't be a deterrent to playing time.
Bryant may wind up taking the reins sometime during the 2013 season, but Carlisle and his fellow backs won’t be challenged by the blue-chip recruit until fall practice. If Carlisle can show he’s healthy in March and April, though, it may go a long way when Notre Dame’s backfield gets even more crowded in August.