Miami vs. Notre Dame: Time for Brian Kelly to Let Cierre Wood Run Wild

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29: Running back Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fight Irish rushes upfield in the first quarter against the Florida State Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl December 29, 2011 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

OK coach Kelly, we get it.

Cierre Wood was a bad boy.

Back in August, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly announced that junior DE Justin Utupo and senior RB Cierre Wood had each been suspended two games for violating team rules: (h/t USA Today)

Our players are aware of the standards I set for our program and that failure to meet my expectations will result in consequences. Justin and Cierre violated our team rules so I've suspended them for the first two games of the season.

Well, Wood's two-game suspension came and went, and since his return to action against Michigan State, he's carried the ball 17 times for 95 yards, though he's yet to find the end zone.

Granted, the Irish have two other very capable tailbacks in senior Theo Riddick and sophomore George Atkinson III, who are averaging 3.8 and 7.7 yards per carry, respectively.

But neither one is as explosive as Wood.

It was roughly a year ago that he ran wild against the Purdue Boilermakers, picking up 191 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Miami's run defense today is far worse than Purdue's was last year, as they allow an average of 225.6 yards on the ground per game, a number that ranks 112th in the country.

In what has to be an encouraging sign for Wood supporters, Kelly told Eric Hansen of that he's been very pleased with the week of practice that his senior back has put in, trying to learn the new blocking system the Irish instituted this season:

The reads are very much different for the running back. You have to be so much more patient. And we've really spent this week on Cierre, in particular. in our inside/outside zone game.

He's done a really nice job of that. The idiosyncrasies are really big. I won't bore you with the details, but I will tell you it takes patience and we really focused on that this week.

You have to think that the coaching staff wouldn't spend much time with the senior if they didn't plan on giving him more opportunities in the game, but Riddick remains No. 1 on the depth chart and chances are that means fewer looks for Wood.

It's time to let Cierre Wood do what he does best, and that's make opposing defenders look foolish trying to bring him down.

Unleash the beast, Coach Kelly.

Run Cierre, run.