Notre Dame Running Game in 2011: What can be expected from Cierre Wood?

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If there was one weak link in Notre Dame last season, it was without question the ground game. If you look at the national rankings, on offense: 67th in scoring, 92nd in rushing, 34th in passing, 61st in total yardage.

Defense: 23rd in scoring , 50th in rushing, 54th in passing, 50th in total yards. 2010 was also the first year since 1971 that the Fighting Irish failed to produce a 100 yard rusher in any single game. And the fourth consecutive year without a 1,000 rusher.

Redshirt sophomore Cierre Wood hopes to change all that. He took over the job in week 6 when Armando Allen suffered a career ending injury. It was a tough way for Allen to go out. He was an underrated back. He’s on more all-time ND record lists than you would believe, and his place on those lists is much higher than you’d expect.

Wood filled in quite admirably though, posting over 600 yards on 5.1 ypc.

Go here for our season preview of the 2011 ND offense (passing game)

Go here for our season preview of the 2011 ND Defense

For  Wood, it’s feature back time now.

“20 carries to me that’s just 20 big plays. they molded me to be that,” he said after the spring game.

Jonas Gray will back him up, and he’s one of the fastest players on the entire team. But that’s it as far scholarship running backs go. Freshman Cam McDaniel will have to step in at get some carries because depth at tailback is RAZOR THIN.

But it all starts and ends with Wood, and his taking it up a notch this season.

“It’s about letting your body go, if you don’t let your body go at first then you’re never going to get to your full potential, and that’s where I was at last year. I was tentative, I didn’t let things go. But now I just run reckless out there, but also with control,” he said.

So he’s grabbing the bull by the horns, but what type of runner is he?

“I take different things from everybody, like AP for example. He has great, great stability when he’s running, he has good balance, I’ve been working on it, so when I do get hit, I’m not going down on just the first hit, I’m still rumbling and still going through,” he said.

Luckily for him, the offensive line is the most settled position on the squad. They’ll miss Left Guard Chris Stewart, but most of the starters are back and now have a full season in Kelly’s spread-option under their belt. Left Tackle Zack Martin is the unit’s best. And he’s on the Outland Trophy watch list. But don’t overlook Center Braxton Cave, he’s a people mover; with a really awesome first and last name.

The spread is a pass-first system, but it provides a lot of running room. And not just for the QBs. Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix can provide that quarterback mobility, but the running backs need to step up this year if ND is going to win 10+ games like so many people believe they will. The space will be there, Wood and company need to capitalize.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports You can follow him on Twitter

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