The whispers began last night about Irish running back and kick returner George Atkinson III possibly not making the trip to Norman, and according to a report filed by ESPN it appears true. The true sophomore speedster stayed in South Bend for the weekend after suffering from flu-like symptoms.
How big of a blow is this for Notre Dame?
If it was a long-term absence that would have the possibility of being pretty damaging to a Notre Dame offense that needs GA3's speed and athleticism. For one game, I don't think it's terribly damaging.
Atkinson is the third-string running back after all and although he adds tremendous speed to the lineup and can be used as a decoy on various plays, he probably wasn't going to see more than a handful of carries tonight.
His absence will also affect the return game where he took back all kickoffs but again that unit was struggling this season so it doesn't feel like a huge loss.
The player who may have to step up tonight will be Cam McDaniel and the sophomore will be playing just 173 miles from his high school in Coppell, Texas tonight.
McDaniel will likely move up into the third-string running back role where he could receive some carries and he's been the up-man on kickoffs in front of Atkinson so he might also replace GA3 there as well.
If McDaniel plays a larger role tonight I expect not to be disappointed. He's probably never going to be a star at Notre Dame but he's always well played very well when given the chance. McDaniel brings elite quickness and he also shows the ability to power through tackles, keep his feet moving, and run with more physicality than you'd expect with his size.
Next man in.