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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Coaches' take: John Atkins

By David Ching

John Atkins
John Atkins enrolled at UGA earlier this month after spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy.

ATHENS, Ga. -- John Atkins wasn’t at Hargrave Military Academy for long, but his explosiveness made an impression on coach Troy Davis in that short time.

After failing to qualify to enroll at Georgia last year, Atkins attended the prep school in the fall and proved to Davis that he will be a handful for opposing blockers whether he ends up at nose guard or defensive end with the Bulldogs.

“My thing is going to be to make sure he continues to work on his explosiveness and his hands --  when you’re inside those trenches, just really having violent hands and really splitting the double team, because you’re going to have the double teams,” Davis said last week when asked what Atkins needs to work on leading up to the season. “He’s one of those kids that you can’t block one-on-one. He’s going to win all the time.”

Atkins and junior college transfer Chris Mayes were among 13 prospects who enrolled at Georgia earlier this month, helping replenish the depth along a defensive line that lost four regulars and its top two nose guards in John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers.

While he refused to pigeonhole either newcomer into a position, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Atkins’ athleticism -- not only did he play offensive and defensive line at Thomson (Ga.) High School, he also played tight end and even goalkeeper on the school’s soccer team -- will make him an asset along the line.

“He’s what you want, man,” Grantham said. “He’s big, he’s physical, he’s got very good initial quickness off the ball. He’s a very big man. He can knock guys back, he can command double teams, he can make it hard to run on you. Hard to move. Good athlete for his size. Can rush the passer. Played tight end in high school. He’s a good player.”

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Atkins was an ESPN 150 selection and Under Armour All-American after his senior season at Thomson prior to enrolling at Hargrave. There he impressed Davis with his strength and impressive agility for such a big player -- particularly in a season-ending 12-10 win against Fork Union in which he recorded eight tackles and blocked a field goal.

“He really stepped up and took over,” Davis said. “We were probably in two or three different fronts and he said, ‘Nah coach, we don’t need that. Let’s stay in one front.’ He just wanted to just man up and get after them.”

Like Grantham, Davis believes Atkins’ versatility will allow Georgia’s coaches to use him in more than one role, much like they did with Jenkins at both end and nose last season.

“I can’t say enough about him. He was like that with us,” Davis said. “We moved him from the [end] to the one, the nose in whatever scheme he’s going in. He just played with fiery competition. He’s fierce, but he also knows the game and he plays the game smart.”