Signed: In 2009 from Independence CC (Kan.)
2009 Key Stat: 33 ... Atkinson led all North Texas defensive tackles, and was among the Sun Belt DT leaders, with 33 total tackles in '09 (21 of which were solo). He was tops at NT with a pair of fumble recoveries and was among the team leaders with two sacks. Often a force in the backfield, Atkinson racked up 3.5 tackles for loss. With a solid Division I year under his belt and another offseason with position coach Mike Nelson, Atkinson is expected to anchor the interior of the North Texas defensive line in '10.
Why he will start: His size and athleticism alone make him one of the Sun Belt's top defensive tackle prospects, and the loss of Eddrick Gilmore to graduation makes the starting defensive tackle position his for the taking. Atkinson has a serious nose for the football, and along with Kelvin Jackson, is expected to be a leader on the NT defensive interior.
Why he won't start: Atkinson is entrenched as the starter heading into fall camp, and only an injury will hold him back. Atkinson will be eager to prove that his 33 tackle campaign was no fluke.
Don't' forget: Atkinson has the ability to take over a game defensively. He notched two game changing sacks in the nail-biter against Ohio, and routinely logged games of five tackles or more.
Overall: Most folks down the Mean Green football hallways believe that Atkinson is due for a pretty special season. If you honestly take a look around the Sun Belt, the only thing that separated him statistically from the league's top defensive linemen in '09 was their ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Atkinson tallied a respectable 3.5 tackles for loss, but he has the ability to step into the spotlight if he can get that number up this fall.