Former Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood will forgo his senior year and enter the 2013 NFL draft.
Cierre Wood probably does not figure to dominate any headlines this year in the upcoming NFL draft.
Scheduled to be drafted in the sixth round, the former Notre Dame running back decided to forgo his senior year in college and declare himself eligible for the draft.
Having to make a decision like whether to stay in school or leave to pursue a lifelong dream of playing in the NFL is never simple," Wood said in a statement released by Notre Dame. "I had to weigh many factors over the last month, but ultimately it came down to what I felt was the right decision that would most benefit my family.
Ranked by Rivals.com as a 4-star running back, Wood will at least provide some depth for an NFL team at the position. While he may not possess the size and ability that other "elite" collegiate backs have, Wood will at least be able to contribute in other ways.
Wood does have a number of attributes that will make him useful at the NFL level.
He is a patient runner who allows his lead blockers to make plays in front of him. He is also smart with the ball and capable of making defenders miss. He is also tough, considering his 5'11" frame. While he may not be at the top of the running back draft class this year, Wood will make a solid addition to an NFL team.
Here are seven big plays from Wood's collegiate career.
Wood's first touchdown came against Western Michigan University on October 16, 2010.
While the play call initially set up Wood for the break into WMU's secondary, Wood was able to accelerate into the backfield using the sideline to his advantage. He was able to recognize the blocking in front of him at the point of attack and sneak by WMU's linebackers, who were in position to stop the run.
From there, his acceleration took over and he was able to use his speed to move past WMU's secondary, who never even got their hands on him.
The 39-yard score was the first of his career and helped Notre Dame defeat WMU, 44-20.
The combination of patience, acceleration and speed make this play special, and given that it was Wood's first score, the play earns credence as one of his top highlights.
OK, so it is only a four-yard touchdown run.
Yet there are a few things that are impressive about this run. First, Notre Dame's quarterback, Tommy Rees, puts a receiver in motion behind the line. The receiver acts as a fullback and lead blocker for Wood, who receives the handoff at Michigan's four-yard line.
Recognizing the pile of lines in front of him, Wood is able to follow his lead blocker through a gap between the left guard and tackle.
The juke at the line of scrimmage combined with Wood being able to recognize the gap and attack behind his lead blocker provided him with an easy score. This was a sign of both patience and agility, and Wood executed both perfectly, preventing anyone from Michigan getting his hands on him until he was already across the goal line.
Michigan eventually went on to defeat Notre Dame in the rivalry matchup, 35-31, on September 10, 2011, but Wood's performance was exceptional, and this touchdown run further adds to his portfolio of impressive plays.
This has to be one of my favorite collegiate blocks.
It came on November 12, 2011 against Maryland, a game that saw Notre Dame win 45-21.
While it may be hard to focus on Wood, pay attention to the linebacker behind the Notre Dame receiver. From the far left of the screen, you will notice Wood come out of nowhere and deliver a huge (to put it mildly) block on the Maryland defender, thus opening up the secondary for a Notre Dame touchdown.
Simply put, it is awesome.
It also is not bad for a running back who is only 5'11" and going after an unquestionably bigger defender. This shows us two things. First, Wood is a physical specimen capable of delivering punishment. In addition, it also shows his selflessness and willingness to contribute to the play even if the play-calling did not necessarily involve him.
A tackier clip of the block can be found here.
Wood does not always need to have blockers in front of him. He can also be the blocker as well.
I previously mentioned Wood's ability to get to the outside as well as his patience and mobility.
If there was one video that could highlight Wood's attributes and the fact that he can be difficult to wrap up, this video is it.
In the September 15, 2012 game against Michigan State, Wood totaled 56 yards on 10 attempts.
This was his longest of the day.
After the handoff, Wood uses his acceleration to get to the outside of the tackle box, a move he uses frequently to expose more open space. After finding a hole, he attacks the gap moving into Michigan State's second line of defense.
While there, he eludes more defenders by cutting back to his right, a move that puts him behind some of the Notre Dame lead blockers, thus setting up the opportunity for a big play.
Finally outrunning his blockers, Wood moves toward the outside of the line in hot pursuit by a Michigan State defender. No problem. Wood simply uses a stiff-arm to shove him to the ground, enabling Wood to rush for a few more yards before eventually running out of bounds.
This run highlights plenty of Wood's game. You see his patience and recognition of a potential gap. There is his agility and direction-changing ability. You can see his acceleration and speed. Finally, there is his toughness. All that was missing was a score.
It was a big play nonetheless.
In case you skipped the previous video, or perhaps felt that was a one-time fluke, here is Wood showcasing his talents once more for you.
This time he does it on October 6, 2012 against Miami.
It is another case highlighting Wood's unique abilities to be patient behind the line, recognize a gap and the point of attack, utilize his lead blockers and then use his agility to create more opportunities in open space.
After taking the handoff, Wood followed his lead blockers until the pile collapsed and his initial route was thwarted. Recognizing another gap, Wood cut to his right in between the pile and another blocker to his right, which put him into Miami's secondary.
At this point, Wood is off to the races, using his speed and agility to make his way toward the sideline en route to a near score. Only a lone foot out of bounds prevented him from scoring a touchdown on this particular play, and yet he was still able to dodge a number of Miami's defenders trying to prevent him from reaching the end zone.
Patience, acceleration, speed and agility. They are all here.
Almost all of Wood's highlights thus far have been plays where he has extended the field, either moving to his right or left shortly after the handoff.
What makes this clip exciting is that Wood runs straight up the middle through Oklahoma's defensive line and accelerates past the secondary. Obviously, Wood saw little need to cut back either direction; rather, he recognized the holes presented directly in front of him and utilized the run block presented by his offensive line.
Once he was able to break out into the secondary, his speed took over. Everyone else on the field, including his own teammates, looks slow in comparison.
The 62-yard score was Notre Dame's first touchdown in a 30-13 victory over Oklahoma.
It is a simple play, yet it is exciting to watch Wood's acceleration and speed.
This is the best highlight from Wood's collegiate career.
On November 17, 2012 against Wake Forest, Wood was able to receive a pitch from quarterback Everett Golson and rush 68 yards for a touchdown through a slough of Wake Forest defenders.
The rush was the longest in South Bend that season.
The play epitomizes all of Wood's potential. First, Wood was able to get to the outside with his offensive line doing a great job in the run block. At that point, he utilized his blockers after picking his point of attack and accelerated through a couple of holes in the defense.
After reaching Wake Forest's secondary, Wood was able to break free using his agility and speed to create space in the backfield. Thanks to a couple of key blocks downfield, Wood was able to get into the end zone, only being taken down after crossing the goal line.
It is a classic Wood rush, combining all of the attributes he possesses on the field. The length of the rush combined with the excitement generated by Wood's explosion make this the top play in his collegiate career.
Now, Wood hopes to bring that same level of excitement and capability to the next level.
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