It was hard for any Notre Dame players to step out of the shadow during last season, and it was even harder for its draft prospects to do that in the postseason. Cierre Wood is used to having to share the spotlight. Did his committee work in South Bend show that he has what it takes to play on Sundays?
Wood is a high-effort back with elusive qualities both behind the line of scrimmage and at the second level of the defense. He is a resourceful back who will fire his legs and push to get yards after contact, and Wood also runs with good foot frequency and balance. Wood's vision spots the cutback lanes, and he has the juice in his legs to quickly change direction and attack the opening. He is also a tough back who will sacrifice his body for yardage, which isn't a quality that is usually present in elusive backs.
Wood is more of a speed/burst back than a power back, but he lacks long speed. He's not big enough to substantially push the pile. Wood sometimes gathers to cut and his footwork costs him yardage and momentum. He isn't an accomplished blocker or receiver and projects as a committee back in the pros at best.
Wood's 5'11", 213-pound frame amounts to him being more of a slasher than a compact, efficient runner. His 4.56-40 time illustrates that lack of long speed, but his 37.5" vertical was one of the best among backs at the combine and confirms the physical talent that is the foundation of his elusiveness. He has small 8 5/8" hands, and his fumble at the goal line in overtime vs. Pitt almost cost the Fighting Irish a chance at the national title.
Wood was suspended for two games for breaking team rules last year, which is something that teams will definitely want to know more about before drafting him. He also failed to take over the starting job for good while at Notre Dame.
Sometimes in the shotgun, and sometimes set seven yards deep with the quarterback under center, Wood was used on runs designed to stretch the defense laterally and downhill runs to hit the hole hard and quick. He was not used often in any aspect of the passing game.
Processing tacklers quickly both behind and beyond the line of scrimmage is one of the strengths of Wood's game. He also spots cutback lanes and has the lateral agility to hit them without slowing down too much. He can make small adjustments on the fly to better hit the hole, and he also sees holes developing early enough to burst through them at his top speed.
Wood was not used very often as a receiver, with only 52 career receptions. He is somewhat stiff extending for the ball, but his hands are adequate. Wood's ability to make tacklers miss and see lanes is on display after screen passes and dump-offs. He is mainly a cut blocker as a pass protector and seems ill-suited for that role in the pros.
Between the Tackles
Wood is comfortable taking a handoff at speed and hitting the hole hard, whether it is big or barely there. He makes subtle moves to hit the hole at a better angle but does not hesitate to run hard in close quarters. Wood is actually an effective short-yardage back because of his ability to get low and burrow when a hole isn't there and his general willingness to fight after contact. He will lower his shoulder into a waiting tackler and churn his legs to push them back a few yards before they can bring him down.
Jump cuts and an occasional spin move make up a good part of Wood's highlights. He can make tacklers miss as he is taking the handoff, and he often makes the first man miss in the open field. Wood has a good swerve to his running style and his burst/speed is good enough to make tacklers take bad angles at times. He also has great feel around his feet to avoid ankle tackles.
Wood generates some pop with good body lean and high-effort running behind his pads, but he's not really a power back. He's not going to push the pile or force a gang tackle in most scenarios. While Wood doesn't automatically go down on first contact, he doesn't break many tackles, either. He lacks the mass and lower-body strength to excel in this area.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
Starting is probably not in Wood's future, but he could be a productive committee back on a zone-blocking running team, and he certainly fits in as a solid depth running back in the NFL.