Notre Dame Football: What Irish Lose in Cierre Wood Suspension and Who Steps Up

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 27, 2012

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in action against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

On Sunday, Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune let us know that Cierre Wood was not just absent from practice, he was indeed suspended for the start of 2012.

Wood, the stud running back for the Fighting Irish, will miss the first two games of the season, and that means there is another "next man up" situation for Notre Dame. Aaron Lynch's transfer to USF, Lo Wood's ruptured Achilles and now the Cierre Wood suspension create voids that players must fill.

The good thing about Wood's suspension? He gets to come back.

So, what does Notre Dame lose with Wood's suspension? A versatile, inside-outside back who was going to take a lot of pressure off of Everett Golson. What you lose with Wood is a consistent player who is one of college football's elite backs.

Now, the Irish turn to Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III to fill Wood's shoes for a couple games.

With Riddick and Atkinson, you do get some versatility and the ability to break the big one.

Riddick has wheels, and he can explode to daylight. The transition from wide receiver to running back has not been easy for him, but this might be the opportunity that he needs. He'll be forced into playing early and often, and finding his niche as a player who has a ton of athleticism will be fun to watch.

As for Atkinson, the sophomore has the skills to be the next big thing in South Bend. He is big. He is physical. He can run. Cierre Wood is an elite running back, but George Atkinson III is an elite athlete; he just has to find his way.

Any time you lose a top-level player like Cierre Wood, it is tough. However, Notre Dame's offensive line is top-notch, and the replacement players are both physically capable.

Quite honestly, I expect Atkinson to be the guy who emerges in Wood's stead. He's an intimidating presence, and if he can calm himself down enough to follow his blockers, he will be a welcomed addition to the Irish rushing game as a compliment to Wood.