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March 28, 2011

Wood likes the sound of spring

Much has changed in the football world of Cierre Wood over the last 12 months.

This time last year Wood was coming off a freshman season during which he didn’t play and was part of an offensive backfield deep in experience with seniors Armando Allen and Robert Hughes, not to mention junior Jonas Gray.

Even with Theo Riddick shifting to wide receiver it didn’t seem like Wood had a clear path to consistent playing time, especially since he was trying to grasp Brian Kelly’s system.

“I was still trying to fit myself in,” Wood said. “I didn’t really understand the scheme and everything. It was just like a big cluster. But towards the end I started to settle down more.”

During fall camp Wood rose up the depth chart, although Allen held onto the starting job. But once Allen went down with a season ending hip injury, Wood gobbled up the bulk of the workload.

In six games that Allen didn’t start or play Wood averaged 80 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. By season’s end he led the Irish in carries (119) and yards (603). He added three touchdowns on the ground to go with 20 receptions for 170 yards and two more scores.

With the graduation of Allen and Hughes, combined with his experience from last season, Wood enters this year’s spring practice as the presumptive starting running back.

Not that his mindset has changed from this time last year.

“You’ve just gotta work,” Wood said. “Nothing’s gonna change. It’s the same story. Next man in. You’ve just gotta keep working. That’s all it is. It’s a new mentality for our whole team and everybody notices it. That’s all it is. It’s nothing new. Same thing we’ve been doing.”

With spring practice almost a week old, Wood is busy working on the things that will take him to a new level of success.

Continuing to work on his blocking and receiving are points of emphasis. So is building his knowledge of the playbook so he’s comfortable with all the schemes. In short, Wood wants to leave nothing about his game untouched, including his ability as a runner.

“This year I want to add not only that I’m elusive,” Wood said. “Everybody knows I can shake somebody but people haven’t really seen me run through somebody. I’m gonna be doing that a lot more this year. That was I’m gonna be a dual threat; you never know if I’m gonna shake you or I’m gonna rune through you.”

Sign the Notre Dame coaching staff up for those goals. At this time last year Wood was just trying to get through practice without Kelly screaming at him. Now he’s working on building his skill set.

If measured in how much he’s heard from Kelly, Wood feels positive about how things have come along.

“He hasn’t yelled at me yet so far,” Wood said. “I’m gonna cross my fingers. I’m gonna try to keep it like that but he hasn’t said anything to me yet.

“That’s a great measuring stick because I got yelled at at least like 20 times in the first two days last time. I’m making progress.”





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