When Cierre Wood gave his commitment to Notre Dame, the buzz surrounding him echoed "superstar," "burner" and "game-changer" throughout the dorm halls in South Bend. The fan base was excited and the coaching staff had hauled in one of the best backs in the country.
Coming in as a freshman, Wood had some of the biggest expectations pushed on his shoulders from Day One.
With a redshirt year in the plan for the talented back out of central California, he waited the days out patiently while putting in hard work in the weight and film rooms. He knew his day would come one day, but wasn't sure when that day would be.
Sitting behind a former highly-recruited speed back much like himself in Armando Allen, Wood got the nod last season as a prominent back in the offense.
However, with carries to split, along with a larger emphasis on the passing game rather than on the ground, his true talents came in quick flashes before retracting to the sideline shortly after.
Last season did result in more action on the field for the redshirt sophomore. After the team lost Allen to an injury after the Navy game, Wood was handed the starting role.
He ended the season as the Irish leader in rushing yards (603) while running for three touchdowns. In addition to his 5.1 yard per carry average, he also added two receiving touchdowns along with 170 yards.
All in all, Wood had a serviceable first year on the field.
But now entering his second year donning the blue and gold, much more will be expected out of the presumed No. 1 starter going into the Sept. 3 matchup vs. South Florida to open the season.
How much more? "He's electric. He's a playmaker. He'll be, I believe, one of the more talented backs in the country this year," said Brian Kelly while previewing his offense.
There is no denying the talent that Wood possesses. There is, after all, a valid reason to him being ranked as a five-star talent by some recruiting services before making his way to South Bend.
Now that his talent and potential have both been revealed, it's only going to get better for the junior-to-be. However, unfortunately for the Irish, there isn't much left behind their talented starting tailback.
Behind him is an upperclassmen with major questions marks in Jonas Gray. There have been a few eye-popping moments due to Gray's intriguing skill set. In fact, his skill set combines with that of Wood's almost perfectly.
However, his fumbling issues and inconsistency have so far diminished his career outlook. Irish fans are hoping for a Robert Hughes-like senior season out of Gray.
Behind the front two, there are virtually no experienced tailbacks on the roster. The talent is there in the molds of Cam McDaniel, George Atkinson and Cam Roberson, yet none of these guys have stepped foot on a college football field.
If the Irish are going to depend on one of these guys to be responsible for a large quantity of carries this season, it may be a very long one.
Because of his game-changing ability, overall talent and the team's lack of depth at the position, Cierre Wood is one of the biggest factors for Notre Dame if they wish to call 2011 a successful season.
The carries will come, the touchdowns will be scored and the first-downs will be gained. That is, as long as Wood remains healthy and on the field.