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Time for Cierre Wood to step up

Feb 20, 2013, 8:16 PM EDT

Irish running back Wood runs for a 68 yard touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first half of their NCAA college football game at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend

With the NFL Scouting Combine beginning tomorrow, Manti Te’o isn’t the only former Notre Dame player that needs to answer some questions. While the media hordes will likely surround Te’o from the minute he steps foot in Indianapolis, there likely won’t be a soul asking Cierre Wood about the eventful six weeks that have taken place since he played his last football game for the Irish. But the truth is, there’s no Notre Dame player that needs to prove more this week than Wood, who could see his draft stock soar or plummet in the next few days.

Wood’s career at Notre Dame will be difficult to classify. From the moment he stepped onto the field, Wood played at a high level, though never seemed to capture the extent of his ability. It’s tough to look at Wood’s career stat-line — 2,447 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 5.4 yards-per-carry — and see a guy that doesn’t have the raw ability to play in the NFL. Yet the fact that he decided to head to the NFL now, after a senior season where he lost his starting job to Theo Riddick, raises more than a few questions.

There’s a nobility in Wood’s decision, with a key factor a young daughter that the Oxnard, California native wants to take care of and raise. But jumping to the NFL now, after a season that was a relative disappointment and included a two-game suspension for an undisclosed team violation, ups the importance of showing athletic ability and speed that is too good for an NFL team to pass up.

While it was hardly Pete Carroll openly questioning Mark Sanchez’s decision to leave school early, it was pretty clear reading between the lines that Brian Kelly wasn’t a fan of Wood’s decision to head to the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining. Kelly said many times this season — often when Wood’s decision to leave was already a foregone conclusion — that he thought there was still work to be done in the veteran running back’s game. And while you could say that’s a coach looking at the depth chart in 2013 and seeing only George Atkinson with any tangible experience, there’s plenty of truth to the statement. (It’s been reported that the Gug featured FatHead like images of the seniors on the walls this year. Wood’s wasn’t included.)

It’s no secret that in the biggest games of his career, Wood has sometimes struggled to make a difference. While he was hardly alone, his stat line against Alabama was nonexistent. The Southern California native also struggled to do much of anything against his hometown Trojans, running for just 25 yards on 13 combined carries in 2011 and 2012. Wood has played well on big stages — a bright spot in a loss against Michigan in ’11, key down the stretch against Michigan State, BYU, and Oklahoma in ’12, but also dodged a major bullet with his goal line fumble in overtime against Pitt. Those kind of mistakes kept Wood out of favor in the feature back category, putting the onus of the offense on Riddick, even though he lacked the explosiveness and skills of his counterpart.

Wood’s body of work can be looked at either way by NFL teams. He’s shared carries the past two years, keeping miles off of his tires. Or he’s given up the role of feature back in college, making it doubtful he’s got what it takes to carry the load in the NFL.

From the first day Brian Kelly stepped on campus, he believed in Cierre Wood. While Kelly wasn’t ready to say his starting running back was ready to say goodbye to his college career, Wood made the difficult decision to move forward, gambling on his speed and skill to fill in the blanks his final season left.

While all eyes certainly won’t be on Wood, he’s got a whole lot to play for.

 

  1. 10of14 - Feb 20, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    This is so not news worthy. I never bought into him, even as a star studded first year player. He and his whole Snoop Dog thing never did well at ND and I always saw him as soft and a player who took way too many plays off while on the field…total waste of God given talent. From a human spirit perspective, I hope he makes it, but my opinion is he will not make it in the NFL due to his lack of work ethic and questionable character. We shall see.

    • dmac4real - Feb 20, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      If 2,447 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 5.4 yards-per-carry counts as “Never doing well” then id like to see what a productive back would look like…

      I, for one, and thankful for Cierre (his swagger and his play) and am hopeful he does great in the NFL.

  2. papadec - Feb 20, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    Ultimately, it is his decision to make & live with – not ours, not BK’s. Next man in.

    • stedward - Feb 21, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Fortunately there are about four good candidates to be the “next men in”

  3. irishdodger - Feb 20, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    I agree with some of 10for14’s comments. I don’t mind the swagger if its backed up, but he showed little, if any, physical toughness vs superior teams. He ran a lot of plays where it was obvious he was afraid of contact. That leads me to think he won’t fare well in the NFL. That said, I hope I’m wrong & wish him the best.

  4. yaketyyacc - Feb 21, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    it sure seems that another year on the college level would have been a plus. Cierre has a young child to support, and this fact sometimes clouds better judgement. he is like an artist who would take a painting 85% completed to sell because he is hungry. even fiinished, no one could say it might sell, and at 85%, it certainly won’t sell.
    the reason for trying is the very reason for faltering. wishing him luck is only being polite.
    try coaching, or something in its line, or even teaching phy.ed. not the big bucks, but a better than average living.

  5. 1historian - Feb 21, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    I wish him tall he best but I would be surprised to see him go in the first 5 rounds, and not surprised to see him as a free agent.

  6. irishayes - Feb 21, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Academically isn’t he a senior? I seem to recall that he
    red-shirted his freshman year?

    • bernhtp - Feb 21, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Yes, Cierre is a senior. I don’t know if he’s graduated yet given his summer school sessions or still needs a few courses to finish up.

  7. Affair Advice - Feb 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Frankly, Riddick was a far better player than Wood

  8. fnc111 - Feb 22, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    After reading this negative piece on him you wonder why anyone including Kelly would want him back? Kind of a low blow article if you ask me.

    There would be no positive for him coming back. His draft stock won’t change in a year and he’ll have more mileage on the legs. He has his degree, will get drafted, and will be in training camp come July. What more can you ask for? Kelly does not like him and would most likely not start him again in 2013. It was way to risky of him to come back. I’m glad CW got to stick it to Kelly on the way out.

  9. mikes1160 - Feb 23, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    fnc111,

    Your trolling knows no end. And how on earth did he “stick it” to Kelly and why would Kelly deserve it?!

    Just go away.

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