Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 19

No. 19 on our countdown has big shoes to fill next season. He showed glimpses this season of why he may be able to do just that.

No. 19: George Atkinson III, RB

Making the case: Atkinson was Notre Dame's home run threat this past season, breaking off touchdown runs of 56 and 55 yards against Navy and Miami, respectively. As the No. 3 back behind Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, Atkinson carried the ball 51 times for 361 yards and five touchdowns, none bigger than his 2-yard rush on third-and-goal early in the fourth-quarter against BYU, when he used a nasty juke to avoid Nate Sampson and give the Irish what proved to be the winning score in a 17-14 victory. A year after returning two kickoffs for scores as a freshman, Atkinson had 441 return yards on 22 returns this season. Atkinson will need to become more of a threat as a receiver as his career progresses (he had just two catches for four yards in 2012), but he should have the inside track for the top job in the backfield when spring ball kicks off in March.

Preseason ranking: 10

The countdown

No. 20: Dan Fox, LB

No. 21 Matthias Farley, S

No. 22 KeiVarae Russell, CB

No. 23 Robby Toma, WR

No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K

No. 25 Chris Brown, WR