5 QUESTIONS WITH JOHN ATKINS
ATHENS – Georgia’s John Atkins – known as “John John” to family, friends and teammates – achieved a bit of notoriety last Saturday when he lined up at fullback for the Bulldogs on a fourth-and-one play against Ole Miss. With Atkins serving as lead blocker, Nick Chubb was able to break free for a 16-yard gain in a game of very few offensive highlights for Georgia.
But it is for his size and defensive skill that Atkins was recruited to play football for the Bulldogs. Once again, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound junior from Thomson will be lined up as the starting noseguard when No. 11 Tennessee visits on Saturday.
It has been a slow-go for both Atkins and the Bulldogs so far. After missing most of preseason camp with a knee injury, Atkins recovered in time to play in the opener against North Carolina and every game since. He enters the Tennessee contest with nine tackles and a pass deflection on the season.
Atkins said the knee sprain that knocked him out for nearly three weeks of preseason practice is no longer an issue.
“Not at all,” he said. “I went to rehab and I had rehabbed really hard to come back. I haven’t really had any problems.”
We caught up with Atkins earlier this week and he’s the subject of this week’s “Five Questions With …”
1. What’d you think about getting thrown out there as a fullback last Saturday?
Atkins: “It was fun. It was a good experience. It reminded me of high school. … I played offensive tackle and tight end. So I went out there just thinking of high school. Just go. When the first man shows, just hit him.”
2. You’re just a junior, but you’re definitely the old guy in the D-line meeting room with all those freshmen and sophomores. How do you think you guys are doing as a group?
Atkins: “We’re doing good. I think the whole team is doing well despite the struggles. But I think that’s why we come out to practice and work hard every day. If you work harder every day, you’re going to keep getting better and better. That’s what we’re doing.”
3. Obviously, the team’s performance in last week’s 45-14 loss to Ole Miss left a lot to be desired, especially for the defense. But, as coaches say, it still counts as only one loss. I assume having East rival Tennessee coming in and already owning one division victory help you guys from a motivational standpoint?
Atkins: “Our leadership has been harping on (the fact) we lost just one game. We’re still in the hunt. One loss doesn’t really mean anything. We’ve got to keep playing. The East is still in play right now. Everybody bought in right after the game. Coach Smart talked to us and he was, like, not being negative or anything like that. He was just encouraging us and telling not to give up. Just keep going and keep working every day. Coach (Tracy) Rocker did the same thing.”
4. A lot of people are focusing on a potential comeback for tailback Nick Chubb, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in last year’s game at Neyland Stadium. But you were injured in that game, too, weren’t you?
Atkins: “Yeah, I hurt my toe. I got turf toe. I missed about three weeks. … I feel like I didn’t finish the game last year and they won. … Tennessee is always going to bring the fight anytime they play Georgia, so I really want to play them again.”
5. Tennessee is bringing in another spread, RPO-oriented offense and is playing very well, especially after last Saturday’s 38-28 win over Florida. Are you worried about facing a hot team?
Atkins: “Everybody’s offense is kind of the same now. We’re always going in the nickel package. But it’s not what they do, it’s what we do. Striking from our hips, striking up front. If we strike that’s half of the battle won. … We know Tennessee is important, but it’s about getting ourselves better first. So that’s what we’ve been focusing on – ourselves.”