DL Geno Atkins (Georgia Athletics)
The Chargers are hard-up for a defensive lineman who can hold his ground vs. the run and make plays in the backfield. One such player is Geno Atkins, an uber-active lineman and UGA's reigning defensive MVP. We talk with Atkins for the first in a series of Q&A's that will track his journey to the NFL Draft.
Geno Atkins (6-foot-1, 290 pounds) is a disruptive defensive lineman, posting 10.5 sacks and 33 TFLs over the last three seasons at Georgia. He plans to carry over his dominant demonstrations to Sundays this season and several NFL teams are already lining up on his dance card. He takes us inside the predraft process in this exclusive semiweekly series tracking his path to the draft.
Michael Lombardo: Looking back at Senior Bowl week, how did everything go for you? Were you able to accomplish everything you wanted?
Atkins: I felt that I was able to accomplish everything I wanted to. I was able to showcase my skills to NFL scouts. That whole week of practice I think I did pretty well for myself. I really showed my quickness, my strength, my speed and my power. I showed that I can really rush the passer and cause havoc and be disruptive.
ML: Which teams did you have significant interviews with?
Atkins: Miami, Chicago, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore, Chiefs, Browns...the list goes on. I talked to quite a few teams.
ML: It's interesting that two-thirds of those teams play 3-4 defenses. Have they talked to you about how they see you fitting into a 3-4 scheme?
DL Geno Atkins
Atkins: I really don't know. I'll probably find out more when I go to the NFL Combine as far as what they see me playing.
ML: Did the teams ask you about specific techniques you played at Georgia that may translate better to one scheme or the other?
Atkins: I played mostly the 3-technique and I played some nose, but we played a left-right defense, so depending what the strength of the defense is you might be in a nose or a shade technique, so I tell them I played both in college.
ML: How big an adjustment would it be for you to slide out and play end in a 3-4 defense?
Atkins: I don't think it would be too different. There are different responsibilities. You have contain for the quarterback and stuff like that, but really, the responsibilities with the quarterback are the only difference.
ML: Georgia has put a lot of talented defensive linemen into the NFL, such as Richard Seymour, Jason Ferguson, Marcus Stroud, etc. What is it about that program that prepares defensive linemen so well for the next level?
Atkins: Working with Coach G, Mr. Rodney Garner, he really emphasizes the little things. He's very big on focusing on fundamentals and techniques. Getting those techniques down-pat trickles over to the next level. [Georgia players] are fundamentally strong when they go to the NFL and that helps out a lot, being fundamentally strong and working on your speed, your get-off, your quickness and stuff like that.
ML: Other than former Georgia players, are there any NFL players you watch?
Atkins: I've been watching some film on Justin Tuck and Darnell Dockett. I look at Tuck with his speed and quickness and his ability to sell his moves upfield and be able to counter. And Dockett, I just like his speed and how disruptive he is using his hands. I noticed how they are both always using their hands. Even when it seems like they're blocked, they just keep working, keep working, keep working until they get the sack or make the play.
ML: It's funny that people always talk about size and strength with defensive linemen. But if you can't combine those with great feet and great hands, you aren't going to get very far, are you?
Atkins: If you don't have good feet and a good power base, you're in trouble. Your get-off and your hand placement are going to determine who's going to win that battle. If you don't have good feet and good hands, you'll lose every time.
ML: Do you have any specific goals for the NFL Combine?
Atkins: My goals are to have good times and do well in all the events I do. I want the scouts from the teams to get a good feel for me personality-wise and I want to tell them what I can offer if they put me into their schemes.
Our next check-in with Geno Atkins will come later this month at the NFL Combine.
Talk about Geno Atkins and other prospects in our Insider Draft Talk Forum.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.