It's not that unusual for Georgia (or any other college football program) to lose players. Heck, some programs are famous for gently suggesting that players who aren't seeing the field may have injury issues, academic challenges or other problems that counsel against continuing a gridiron career that's going nowhere fast.
It's not even that unusual for a freshman player to report to campus and realize that he may have gotten in over head. Or that he's homesick. Bulldog fans probably remember heavily recruited defensive end Dexter Morant falling into this category. But it is pretty rare for a young man to accept an offer on National Signing Day and announce barely four months later that he's giving up football because he has "other career goals and want[s] to pursue those" before ever setting foot on campus. Especially not a guy who so many identified as a legitimate threat to play well and early.
Kudos to Hunter. There are are those who might call a young man who makes this decision a quitter. Or wonder why he accepted a scholarship which could have gone to someone else, someone who would give anything just to practice along Lumpkin Street, much less actually play up the way in Sanford Stadium. I can sympathize to some extent with that line of thinking. But at the same time if Atkinson was going to decide that college football was not for him I am glad that he did it now rather than later.
Does it leave the Bulldog offense in a precarious position? Absolutely. As noted in this space only a few weeks ago the tight end rotation was going to be thin to begin with in 2014. Jay Rome is the only player at the position who's seen playing time at tight end. I suspect Quayvon Hicks will also be in a position to contribute, even though we're still not sure how much of his role will be as an H-back rather than a traditional tight end. Redshirt freshman Jordan Davis is now a shoe-in to play significant minutes, and freshman Jeb Blazevich hopefully reported ready to learn. I'd say there's absolutely zero chance of him redshirting. There's also converted high school quarterback and redshirt freshman Jared Chapple, who could also work his way into the rotation.
But Atkinson making this decision now also makes it possible for the Bulldog staff to make long term decisions about the position, decisions beyond how they'll utilize the tight ends in 2014. Tennessee prep standout Jackson Harris is already committed for 2015. And Griffin High standout Christian Owens could end up moving in from wide receiver as well, as long as he stays committed. But it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility to see the coaches now go after another true pro style tight end for the class of 2015.
I'd like to wish Hunter Atkinson all the best in whatever he decides to do. And John Lilly the best in figuring out what to do if his unit suffers even one significant injury. Until later . . .