The Irish’s travel squad will lose another returning starter, as Cierre Wood has been suspended for the season’s opening game, joining quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese at home in South Bend when the Irish travel to Dublin on Wednesday. Multiple sources have confirmed to me that Wood will sit out the season’s opening game, while two sources have also told me that the suspension isn’t limited to one game. The sports staff at The Observer, Notre Dame’s independently run student newspaper, also had sources confirm the story and helped contribute to this report.
Wood is coming off an 1,100 yard season where he averaged over five-yards a carry, holding onto the role of leading man at a position grouping that is the most talented on the roster. He’ll be replaced in the starting lineup by senior Theo Riddick, with sophomore George Atkinson also set to get significant touches against Navy.
While the news stayed air-tight throughout the preseason, the suspension isn’t news to Wood or the running back depth chart. While the senior from Oxnard, California has taken reps with the first team — as recently as yesterday — the position grouping has done its best to adapt to the situation, working in reserves Riddick, Atkinson, and cross-training running back-turned-cornerback-turned running back-again Cam McDaniel in case of an emergency. (Slot receiver Davonte Neal and transfer Amir Carlisle are also capable options.)
At 6-foot-1, 215-pounds, Wood is a unique back that has the speed and skills of a smaller player with the power to run effectively between the tackles. While he saved a year of eligibility after sitting out his freshman season, many expect Wood to declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft, something that maybe less likely after this suspension puts him behind the 8-ball with talent evaluators.