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Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III to start vs. Temple

Notre Dame running back George AtkinsIII right makes move get past Pittsburgh linebacker Todd Thomas during first half an NCAA

Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III, right, makes a move to get past Pittsburgh linebacker Todd Thomas during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: September 30, 2013 2:13PM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame could have gone any number of directions with its starting running back.

The No. 14 Irish have versatility in Amir Carlisle. The team has youth with Greg Bryant.

In the end, the most experienced person in terms of carries, George Atkinson III, gets the nod for Saturday’s opener against Temple.

“My job is to make sure I stay in that position,” Atkinson said Wednesday, “stay consistent in my play and make plays.”

Sometimes, Atkinson will be making those plays out of the pistol formation.

“You’ve seen Nevada run it. You’ve seen other teams run it. We’ll see how it goes,” Atkinson said.

In the pistol, the quarterback is a little closer to the line of scrimmage than he would be in the shotgun formation. The running back lines up directly behind the quarterback.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the formation benefits downhill running and is helpful for pass protection.

He believes the formation suits Atkinson well. The junior rushed for 351 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.

“In Year 1 we ran a little bit of pistol, and I felt like it was something that I wanted to get into a little bit more of, and it fits some of the personnel that we have,” Kelly said Tuesday. “George is a guy that I wanted to get downhill. He’s got great speed and acceleration. He ran downhill very well in high school, and we felt like the pistol could fit him very well. Not just him, but we felt like it was something that could benefit us moving forward.

“[It’s] just another piece to our offense that gives us the versatility that we’re looking for. Week-to-week you may see it a little bit more than others, and some you may not see it at all. I just think it’s another piece that helps us complement the players we have.”

Notre Dame faces a Temple team that finished 100th in the nation in rushing defense last season, allowing 199.8 yards per game. The Owls have a new defensive coordinator in Phil Snow.

Atkinson and the other backs are leaving the play-calling to the coaches.

“We’re not worried about what formation we’re going to run,” he said. “We are just making sure we’re ready when the formation is called.”

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