Notre Dame Fighting Irish lost the National Championship game last week, and knowing they were losing Theo Riddick who was in his senior year, they were probably hopeful that they could use the other member of the dual running threat, Cierre Wood as their Number 1 running back in the 2013 season. The most likely hope to maintain some of the form for next season.
Alas, the hope of Brian Kelly - who himself committed to the Irish after flirting with the Philadelphia Eagles - to maintain returning starters much like Alabama do, has diminished as underclassman Wood has declared for the 2013 draft in April.
Wood is currently predicted to be anything from a third to a seventh round draft pick; he hopes to elevate his position based on workouts and interviews. However, he is currently ranked behind his team-mate Theo Riddick and way behind more renowned backs Montee Ball (Wisconsin) and Eddie Lacy (Alabama).
However, this decision by Wood, part determined by his one-year old daughter and wanting to secure money for her future as well as his own with Notre Dame being popular at the moment and helping the team to a 12-1 season; it could well become a decision that is the wrong one.
Looking over his stats for his three years at the school; 2012 was not even Wood's best season. This season he garnered 742 rushing yards off of 114 attempts, an average of 6.5 per rush with 3 games of over 100 plus rushing yards.
However, in 2011 he was the sole back and garnered off of 217 carries, 1102 yards at an average of 5.1 yards and 9 touchdowns, in contrast to this season when he only got 4 touchdowns.
This is due to the system employed by the Irish to use both Wood and senior Theo Riddick as a dual running threat. This meant sharing the workload and carries, and it can be seen that Riddick being the more senior player got the rub of the green. Riddick had 76 more carries (190), more yards (175) and one more touchdown; as well as two receiving touchdowns in which Wood was hardly ever used as a receiver; whereas Riddick caught 36 passes for 370 yards (10.1 avg) and 2 touchdowns.
It is quite clear to make the case that Wood, a returning senior is South Bend, would have got the brunt of the work and carries next season. And for Kelly and the Irish to have one returning star would have been gratifying as Tyler Eifert, the stud tight end has also declared for the NFL. This means in some respect, the Irish are starting over on offence.
Wood, can be expected to be taken low in the draft, maybe a fifth/sixth round pick-up if his workouts and interviews allow him to improve his status. However, he did not do himself any favours in the National Championship game where he had four carries for just two yards, with no receptions. Unlike, Riddick who did score a touchdown in the blowout against Alabama.
Riddick, may well have the more upside coming out of the draft, his ability to catch passes and gain yards make him a useful utility back in the mould of a Danny Woodhead-figure who can gain huge yardage from a variety of positions and schemes. Wood, can be expected to be drafted, by a team that requires a back-up running back for those short yardage gains. However, neither can be considered an every down back at this stage in their careers.
Whilst Brian Kelly wishes Wood every luck in the draft, you can imagine him saying this through gritted teeth.