Notre Dame to be a backfield-by-committee to open season

Senior tailback Cierre Wood (Oxnard, CA/Santa Clara) comes into the 2012 season on a high note of rushing for 1,102 yards on 217 carries and scoring nine touchdowns in 2011 while splitting time with now-graduated Jonas Gray. Gray is gone and there are three others that he will be sharing the ball with this fall.

Wood has recently gotten himself into some pre-season troubles, just before camp started. He and reserve junior defensive end Justin Utopo (Lakewood, CA/Lakewood) have been suspended for the first two regular season games, Navy and Purdue, by head coach Brian Kelly for violating team rules that were not disclosed any further.

So, there will now be three Irish starters that will not even be allowed to travel to Dublin, Ireland with the team this week for Saturday’s game. Junior quarterback Tommy Rees (Lake Forest, IL/Lake Forest) and senior inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese (Verona, NJ/Verona) were also suspended, but solely for the season opener vs. Navy on Saturday. Rees and Calabrese’s suspension were from an off-campus incident on May 3rd in South Bend.

Fellow senior Theo Riddick (Manville, NJ/Immaculata) has fully moved back to running back from being a wide receiver in 2010 and a majority of the 2011 campaign, but is no stranger to the Irish backfield from his freshman year in 2009. When Jonas Gray went down with an injury late last season, coach Kelly immediately turned to Riddick to pitch in. Riddick will be a dangerous threat out of the backfield and also lining up in the slot. His speed will take some teams by complete surprise, considering that he’ll be mainly a running back, but also counted upon to catch passes and open things up offensively for the Irish.

Speed stems down to the next man up on the depth chart. Sophomore running back/kickoff returner George Atkinson III (Stockton, CA/Granada) brings another speed element in the absence of Cierre Wood. He has very little collegiate experience (9 carries) from his frosh season last year as a running back, but has adapted quite well through spring drills and fall camp thus far. His kick returning skills and tactics should hopefully help him revamp his ground game.

USC transfer Amir Carlisle (Santa Clara, CA/Kings Academy) brings another speed factor to Notre Dame’s backfield. Missing every practice leading up to the Annual Blue-Gold spring game in April because of ankle surgery, Carlisle should be a vital piece of the Irish offense as he eases back into fresh legs this fall. Odds are that the former Trojan won’t fully be ready for action this Saturday vs. Navy, if at all.

Just when sophomore Cam McDaniel (Coppell, TX/Coppell) thought he had completely moved over to the defensive side of the ball at cornerback, the offense may be calling on his services again. McDaniel technically becomes the third choice at running back on Saturday against Navy with Carlisle being close to unavailable. He and freshman Will Mahone (Austintown, OH/Fitch) should be called upon to mix up the rotation.

Wood ought to be primed and ready to go following his suspension. He’ll get his shot back in the starting lineup on Saturday, September 16th on the road against Michigan State at Spartan Stadium. It may be one of the tougher road games that Notre Dame plays, but Wood’s coming out party for 2012 under the lights should be a dandy against a storied rival like the Spartans.

One Response to Notre Dame to be a backfield-by-committee to open season
  1. jordan aj16
    July 19, 2014 | 8:56 am

    jordan aj16…

    Notre Dame to be a backfield-by-committee to open season | Vigilant Sports…

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