Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood's sleeper Heisman chances have been knocked off track before they had a chance to get rolling, as he is set to start the 2012 college football season under suspension for violation of team rules.
UPDATE: Sunday, Aug. 26 at 2:31 p.m. by Richard Langford
Wood's suspension is going to be for two games, and he will have some company—defensive end Justin Utupo will be joining him. Brian Hardin, Notre Dame's director of football media relations, tweeted out the news:
#NotreDame coach Brian Kelly has suspended DE Justin Utupo and RB Cierre Wood two games for a violation of team rules.— Brian Hardin (@NDHardin) Aug. 26, 2012
Quote from Brian Kelly: "Our players are aware of the standards I set for our program and that failure to meet my expectations ...— Brian Hardin (@NDHardin) Aug. 26, 2012
Kelly quote cont'd: "will result in consequences. Justin and Cierre violated our team rules so I've suspended them for ...— Brian Hardin (@NDHardin) Aug. 26, 2012
Kelly quote cont'd: "the first two games of the season." End of Brian Kelly quote on suspending DE Justin Utupo and RB Cierre Wood.— Brian Hardin (@NDHardin) Aug. 26, 2012
The two-game suspension will keep this pair out of the Navy game and the Irish's second contest, which is a home game against Purdue. They are both scheduled to be back for Notre Dame's huge third game against Michigan State.
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On the bright side, Wood isn't going to have to worry about having his passport in order when his teammates travel to Ireland to take on Navy. He is going to be suspended for that contest and possibly more.
This is according to a report by NBC's Keith Arnold:
Multiple sources have confirmed to me that Wood will sit out the season's opening game, while two sources have also told me that the suspension isn't limited to one game. The sports staff at The Observer, Notre Dame’s independently run student newspaper, also had sources confirm the story and helped contribute to this report.
It is unclear what the suspension is for, and Wood now joins teammates Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese as Irish players under suspension for Week 1.
Wood, a senior, is coming off a season where he gained 1,102 yards at 5.1 yards per carry, and that included nine rushing touchdowns. At 6'1" and 215 pounds, Wood has the power to run over defenders and the speed to run past them. He also has shown he can handle a heavy workload, and he figures to be a central figure in this offense whenever he returns.
Still, as talented as Wood is, this is a suspension Notre Dame can withstand. The Irish have plenty of talent at the RB position. Look for senior Theo Riddick to take over the starting duties and sophomore George Atkinson to spell him while Wood is out.
Notre Dame shouldn't miss Wood's services for the first two games, as it is equipped to handle Navy in the opener and Purdue at home in its second contest. The Irish will travel to take on Michigan State for their third game, and I would be shocked if Wood's suspension is not up by then.
However, missing even one game will be enough to keep Wood from the Heisman. There is no margin for error if a player wants to go from sleeper status to Heisman winner.