Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood was considered by many to be a Heisman sleeper leading up to the 2012 season. That status took a big hit Sunday afternoon, as the school announced Wood is suspended for two games, beginning with their trip to Dublin to face off against Navy.
According to head coach Brian Kelly, Wood was suspended for violating team rules. He did not elaborate any further as to the cause of Wood’s suspension.
Wood was one of the bright spots of Notre Dame’s 2011 season. He rushed for over 1100 yards in his 2011 campaign, leading the team in rushing. It was the best season for a Notre Dame running back since Darius Walker in 2006.
Wood’s suspension will be a fairly substantial loss for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is starting redshirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback, and observers expected that the offense would be depending on Wood to carry the load, at least to start the season.
Golson, while a good pocket passer, is also a mobile player and many thought Kelly would feature a read-option offense while Golson adjusted to this level of play. That would mean Wood would have plenty of big play opportunities, fueling talk that Wood could be an under the radar Heisman candidate.
Now, Notre Dame will instead be looking to the running backs behind Wood on the depth chart. In 2011 Wood, Armando Allen and Jonas Grey dominated the workload in the backfield. Allen and Grey are gone now, meaning the Fighting Irish have capable, but largely untested depth behind the redshirt junior. Theo Riddick saw only 14 carries last year, and George Atkinson carried the ball nine times.
Riddick, however caught 38 passes for over 400 yards, and Atkinson scored two touchdowns on the ground. Neither player has had to be the workhorse before, but both players have flashed potential. Because of that, the Notre Dame offense should be able to survive Wood’s absence.
Wood will likely suffer more. The two game suspension will likely take away whatever chance the junior had of making a serious push for the Heisman. The focus for his senior year will now be on rehabilitating his reputation and draft stock. As a player without other notable off the field issues, this should be an achievable task.