Thursday Triple Feature

Three more of Notre Dame's 83 scholarship players are reviewed in O'Malley's Stream of Consciousness series. Today's focus: three juniors that must step up if the Irish are to survive a hellacious opening seven games.

Off-the-cuff thoughts on three former backups crucial to their 2013 team's success...

Outside Linebacker Ishaq Williams

Began knocking on the door last season, improving his tackle total from just six as a 2011 freshmen to a respectable 22 with 3.5 for loss (plus a forced fumble, pass defended, and QB hurry), but much more is needed from the 6'5" 258 pound former five-star…Looked adept in zone coverage, at times. Looked comfortable rushing the passer, at times. Held up on the edge, on occasion…Now its time for Williams the upperclassman to bury the expected inconsistencies of the first half of his Irish career and become an impact defender…Part of a 1-2 (in Williams' case, 2-1) punch with senior Prince Shembo at the boundary linebacker position, but Williams is a starter in both the nickel and dime packages and could see time as a defensive end pending the position's attrition between now and season's end…

A section of Irish fans want Williams to beef up and play full-time defensive end -- I think that would limit him greatly during his final two seasons: Williams is a quick-twitch athlete capable of covering ground in a hurry, he should remain in the 255-260 range and hone his linebacker skills in coverage and off the edge under one of the nation's best defensive coaches in Bob Diaco…Anyone that can run with Oklahoma's No. 2 receiver down the seam in bracket coverage belongs at 'backer, not holding the point in a 3-4 front…I'll be concerned about his physical approach on the edge -- especially vs. top-tier offenses -- until proven otherwise…Ranks as perhaps the player, or at least defender, with the greatest differential between ceiling and basement output for 2013…

Running Back George Atkinson

With fewer than 60 carries to his credit, the book appears out on junior runner: too upright, one-trick pony, fumble-prone, east-west rather than north-south, not a featured 'back…

Or maybe fans and media should understand the speedster known as GA3 is just 60 carries into his Irish career -- his next 150 will tell the tale…For now, Atkinson's upside comparison appears to be Randy Kinder-light: a home-run hitter that can compile yardage over the course of 12 games but a player that needs a complimentary piece (Kinder had Edwards, Denson, Farmer, et al) to operate at peak efficiency…At 6'2" 215 pounds, Atkinson has the body to run inside -- he might not have the natural pad level or inclination, but that's running backs coach Tony Alford's job to fix and instill…

For those still in doubt, consider Jonas Gray's career output entering his junior season, then remember how he finished…

I'm more concerned with Atkinson the pass-catcher than GA3 the runner -- at worst, he'll break a few games open in 2013.

Running Back/Slot Amir Carlisle

Is there a more important rookie than this oft-injured transfer? Immediate comparisons are to graduated senior star Theo Riddick, but Carlisle is much faster, at least as quick in short space (quicker past 10 yards), and likely not as strong -- but just as determined…A broken ankle, a broken collarbone: taken alone they're unrelated and don't suggest a patter (especially since the former was off the field), but should Carlisle miss significant time to injury in 2013, the injury-prone label will thereafter be affixed…It took Michael Floyd until his senior season to play an entire slate, and Carlisle has three seasons of eligibility remaining -- he's going to get dinged up, but what matters is how well he plays through common aches and pains and at what level of effectiveness…

One of three Irish players (WR DaVaris Daniels and LT Zack Martin the others) that possesses unique athleticism for his position on the 2013 offense…Upside appears to be No. 1 or No. 2 rusher and No. 3 receiver for 2013: sign me up…

If Carlisle is in relative good health for 11 of the team's 12 regular season games, Notre Dame will qualify for a BCS bowl.

Note: Click the links below for previously reviewed players in our Stream of Consciousness series:

Sunday Sampler: Stream of Consciousness

Five Frosh

Six on the Spot

10 in the Trenches

The Returnees


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