As we began our look earlier this summer into the 2012 Running Back class we came away disappointed. There are a number of fine prospects available this year but there lacks a true game breaker or elite caliber back. In fact we’ve said numerous times that amongst only the 2012 class we don’t see one first round pick at RB.
As we got deeper into tape and analysis we started to notice the 2013 backs guys like Trent Richardson, Knile Davis, Chris Polk, and LaMichael James. These backs are a step up from the 2012 class and we were more excited to watch them this season than the 2012 prospects.
As we move into Week 4 and mark one full month of college football another 2013 RB has emerged and has taken both the nation and our rankings by storm.
In 2009 Notre Dame put together a recruiting class that was ranked top 20 by almost every major recruiting site out there, front and center in this class was a 4 star RB from Oxnard, CA named Cierre Wood.
Wood was ranked as the 8th best RB in the entire country, and the 76th best player overall. He was from Santa Clara HS where he finished with 5,641 rushing yards, 968 receiving yards, and 84 combined TD’s over three years. He also played on defense and punted in HS. Hopes were high for Wood as he came into Notre Dame.
Notre Dame doesn’t technically redshirt freshman, it just doesn’t play them. They do burn a year of eligibility up but since the NCAA allows for players to use up four playing years over the course of five years it’s not a huge disadvantage. Wood like so many other freshmen took the Irish “redshirt”.
He would sit out a painful 2009 for the Irish faithful that would see the team finish a beleaguered 6-6 and cost then coach Charlie Weiss his job. Weiss had been the coach that had brought Wood to Notre Dame, who has sold him on the pro style offense and how it could help him get into the NFL and now he was gone?
Notre Dame would go on to hire Brian Kelly and he brought with him his spread system that had produced only two 1,000 yard rushers in Kelly’s FBS coaching career. It was no secret that Kelly’s system was far better suited for smaller speedier backs like rising Senior Armando Allen as opposed to a more physical back like Wood.
There were rumors that he would switch sides of the ball and move to safety or thoughts that he would just get buried on the depth chart.
Through it all Wood never wavered he worked hard, busted his tail, and showed Coach Kelly and staff that he was dependable enough as a Sophomore to see significant time in the Irish backfield. In 2010 he was rewarded with 119 carries which he turned into 603 yards, and 3 TD’s. He also caught 20 passes (a career high) for 170 yards and 2 TD’s last year.
With Armando Allen due to graduate in the spring Wood was all set to take over the lead back role for the Irish this fall.
Wood still needed to prove himself to fans and scouts though, his 5.0 ypc average as a sophomore was phenomenal but it came in relief duty where he routinely had the freshest legs on the field. He didn’t have the same big play ability that he showed in HS and he looked at times like he was a half a step too slow for the offense.
When the Irish opened up their season against South Florida they did so with a heavy dose of Cierre Wood. Their first play from scrimmage was a screen pass to Wood that went for 31 yards, then two players later in the drive they would ride Wood for five straight carries as he gained 21 yards and got them down to the 1 yard line. Unfortunately for Wood, Coach Kelly, and Notre Dame fans everywhere, Wood needed to come out and catch him breath, and that’s when…well you know what happened then.
Through the first two losses to USF and Michigan, Wood carried the ball 46 times and gained 251 yards and also scored 2 TD’s. He was by far the most consistent and reliable offensive weapon not named Michael Floyd and that’s when we all started to see that this was not the same Cierre Wood from back in 2010 or even from when he was in HS.
Wood is quicker this year, he looks less bulky and it shows on the field. His movement is smooth and he looks almost eloquent in his running style. Don’t let that fool you however he’s already shown that he’s more than willing to still lower his shoulder and deliver a blow. He is becoming a more accomplished pass catcher and it’s allowing for him to become a complete 3 down back.
Wood’s running style is based around making one cut to the hole and hitting that hole as hard as he can. He doesn’t waste a lot of time going east and west and he has enough speed to get into the 2nd level and rip off big gains. We aren’t sure if he has that pull away speed some scouts crave in RB’s but he has more than enough to be successful.
The part of Wood’s game we like the most is his vision, he always hits the right hole and he sees his blocks very well. He does a phenomenal job of being a step ahead of what is actually happening on the field at real time.
Wood is a little stiff in the hips so he’s not going to make a ton of people miss in the open field. He’s also going to need to work to continue to improve his blocking ability both in terms of his technique and his blitz recognition.
Wood has already accumulated 299 rushing yards in three games this season, he has scored 4 TD’s and is averaging 4.98 yards per carry. He currently ranks 38th in the country in rushing.
If he remains at his current pace Wood would finish this year with 240 carries for 1,196 yards, and 12 TD’s which would of put him roughly 20th in the nation last season in rushing.
Wood currently ranks 3rd on our 2013 RB rankings and with Knile Davis out due to an injury there will be more than enough chances for Wood to surpass him before the year is up.
According the main stream media we experienced an Arab Spring earlier this year, and while we aren’t meteorologists if Wood keeps up his production it’s going to turn into an Irish Winter.