Notre Dame junior running back Cierre Wood was the latest Notre Dame player to be named to a pre-season award watch list on Tuesday when he was placed on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award.
The Paul Hornung Award is given annually to the most versatile player in college football by the Louisville Sports Commission and Paul Hornung – the former Notre Dame great and 1956 Heisman Trophy Winner. 50 players from around the country were selected as pre-season candidates, but selection to the pre-season list is not a requirement for winning the award.
After red-shirting his freshman season in 2009 under then head coach Charlie Weis, Wood was thrust into the starting lineup a season ago after the injury to incumbent starter Armando Allen ion the later portion of the season.
Wood ended up starting the final five games of the 2010 season in Allen’s absence and finished the season with 603 yards on 119 carries for an impressive 5.1 yards per carry average. Wood also found the end zone three times on the ground a season ago doing so twice from more than 30 yards out – something that just wasn’t done by running backs since the days of Julius Jones.
Wood also showed that he can be an asset in the passing game as the season progressed highlighted by a 5 catch, 57 yard, 2 touchdown performance in a losing effort to Tulsa.
Heading into the 2011 season Wood is the unquestioned starter at tailback for the Irish and is one of the more irreplaceable starters for Notre Dame this season because of the lack of depth behind him.
Senior Jonas Gray has lettered each of the last three seasons, but has yet to establish himself as a reliable, consistent threat in the running game. Behind Gray the depth is even more of a concern with just a pair of freshmen – Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson after 2010 offensive scout team player of the Cameron Roberson was lost for the season to injury in the spring.
If Wood stays healthy, he could be in store for a big season in 2011 and milestones such as a 1,000 yard season are certainly not out of the question. In fact, with the way Notre Dame was running the ball towards the end of the season, it would be a disappointment is Wood did not eclipse the 1,000 yard mark this season barring injury.
Notre Dame will also be looking for Wood to become more of a threat in the passing game this season. While he had his moments and showed he could be a weapon out of the backfield, he only totaled 20 receptions for less than 200 yards for the season – both of those numbers will need to be improved for Wood this season for the offense to really hit its stride.
All of that said, all signs are pointing to a big season for #20 in 2011. Wood came to Notre Dame with 5-star talent and started to show it at the end of last season and in the spring. One of the knocks on Wood coming out of high school was that he didn’t have the strength to be an every down back at the college level but he began to put those concerns to rest already and should only improve in that area after another full off-season working with Paul Longo.
The Paul Hornung Award was created in 2010 and thus no Notre Dame player has ever won the award. The only recipient of the award thus far has been Stanford’s Owen Marecic. Notre Dame fans may remember him for scoring two touchdowns in 13 seconds against the Irish last fall – one as a fullback and the other on an interception return as a linebacker.