Cierre Wood: Notre Dame Needs to Use Big-Play Running Back More Often

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22:  Cornerback J.T. Floyd #8 of the Michigan Wolverines tackles running back Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Theo Riddick is an incredibly versatile player out of Notre Dame's backfield, but Cierre Wood is an underutilized weapon with home-run potential.

Notre Dame defeated Michigan in an exceedingly sloppy game Saturday evening. Wood had seven carries for 39 yards, running for 5.6 yards a pop. He broke one 15-yard run, but that was one of the only big plays the Fighting Irish made on the ground.

Riddick had 17 carries for 52 yards, but he didn't have any big plays. Obviously, consistency must be valued, but Notre Dame desperately needed big plays against the Wolverines.

This isn't anything new. Wood was suspended for the first two games of the season. He's been worked in slowly, with his game tonight and 10 carries against Michigan State last week, but he's not being used enough.

He's run for nearly 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns in his career. He averages over five yards per carry as a Notre Dame ball-carrier, and he's always a threat to take the ball the distance.

Notre Dame relied on its defense to defeat Michigan. Wood couldn't have won the game by himself, but there's no sense in staying away from him. Riddick is too versatile to remain in the backfield, so why not use Wood to split him out wide?

Brian Kelly has a lot of options with his offense right now. He has two very capable running backs, plus a competent third running back in George Atkinson III. His spread attack needs weapons to function correctly, but they must be used in the best way possible.

Wood is shifty, strong and faster than you think. Kelly shouldn't completely go away from Riddick, but he has to figure out how to use the players harmoniously.

Wood is the most established running back on Notre Dame's roster, but he's not being treated that way. Maybe it's the residual impact of his suspension, but his carries need to increase for Notre Dame's offense to run at full capacity.