Head Coach Brian Kelly has suspended starting Running Back Cierre Wood for the first two games of the season following his violation of team rules. This leaves Notre Dame without the Running Back who ran for 1,102 yards and 9 TDs. The hits just keep coming for the 2012 version of the Fighting Irish Football Team. This is not the only suspension for the team this season.
”Our players are aware of the standards I set for our program and that failure to meet my expectations will result in consequences,” said Kelly in the Press Release, ”Justin and Cierre violated our team rules so I’ve suspended them for the first two games of the season.”
Brian Kelly also suspended Justin Utupo for the first game against Navy in Dublin and the home opener in South Bend against Purdue. This leaves Notre Dame with four players who are suspended for the season opener in Ireland. Tommy Rees and Carlo Calabrese were suspended following their arrests at an off-campus party in May.
Now, Theo Riddick will become Notre Dame’s main rushing threat for the first two games of the 2012 season. Riddick is returning to the Running Back position after playing Wide Receiver for the last two years. Notre Dame now lacks experience but maintains talent.
Will this have any effect on Notre Dame’s play in the first two games? In my opinion, no. One of the positions that Notre Dame is already stocked at is the Running Back position. In the Navy and Purdue games, Notre Dame will most likely feature Senior Theo Riddick and Sophomore George Atkinson III. Both are tremendous talents that can make enough plays to help the Irish win.
Riddick is expected to have a resurgent season for the Fighting Irish. He and Wood were expected to be a one-two punch similar to Gray and Wood last year. Riddick demonstrated against Stanford and Florida State that he is a capable Running Back. Riddick should be able to handle two games on his own this season.
This may actually help Brian Kelly use some of the young talent that Notre Dame needs to get on the field. George Atkinson is one of the players. With Atkinson on the field, Notre Dame has it’s most explosive player in the lineup. He has shown the ability to whether on returns or in the Spring Game to be able to “hit the home run”. Riddick and Atkinson should be able fulfill for the games that Wood will miss.
As for the win and loss column, Notre Dame should not be affected. Navy and Purdue do not significantly threaten Notre Dame. Riddick and Atkinson are good enough that Notre Dame should not notice any drop off because of the loss of Wood. The Irish should still start the season off with two wins.
The loss of Cierre Wood could hamper the Irish from starting off the season as a “well oiled machine.” When Wood returns, he could affect the flow of the offense. But overall, this should not affect Notre Dame’s offense.