We continue our quest to teach you about the best of the Irish, and the best that we’re facing this year. Up today? Running Backs.
Unlike the Wide Receiver category, ND has a bevy of playmakers in the backfield. As we talked about a while back, the roster is stacked, STACKED, at Running Back. But ultimately, this group will live and die by one man: Cierre Wood.
Position: Running Back
Height/Weight: 6’0″/215 lbs
Mr. Wood will be the workhorse of the Notre Dame offense this year, and with an experienced OL and question marks at WR and QB, the second-year starter will need to be a serious yard gainer. Coming off a solid Junior campaign where he rushed for over 1,100 yards on just over 217 carries, this is a statement year for Cierre.
While GAIII, Riddick and perhaps Amir Carlisle will play roles and switch things up, this offense will go as Cierre goes, and I am hoping that means fast.
Cierre’s development has been steady – after not-red-shirting-red-shirting his Freshman year, he returned stronger and more mentally prepared for a Sophomore season that saw him starting a few games in when Armando Allen went down with an injury. That proved to be some great training for Woods’ breakout Junior year last season, when he shared time with (and was somewhat eclipsed by) the feel-good story of the year in Jonas Gray. But Wood was consistent as hell last season, and with another year of training and film-watching, he should be poised for back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons.
Thinking about the competition at Running Back this season, a few names popped up and then were knocked off the list just as quickly. That includes Michigan (sucks! – just practicing) Running Back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who was suspended from the team indefinitely after being arrested Saturday for DUI. Normally I would talk in a righteous tone about this, but these walls of this house are looking a lot like glass so I’ll just move on. Navy is always a top team in rushing stats, but that’s not really because their RBs are good, so they’re out. Purdue…hahaha, kidding!
But seriously, this isn’t a world-beating group we’re looking at for this coming season. There are only a handful of 1,000 yard rushers, and Le’Veon Bell from MSU and Stepfan Taylor from Stanford are probably the best two returning players. Both put up solid stats last season, but I am going with Le’Veon Bell, pretty much only because he had solid stats (like Stepfan but fewer yards in total), and a similar game against ND despite a much rougher overall game and weaker supporting cast (eg Stepfan had Luck). This is also a tight race in the name department as Stepfan is solid, but Le’Veon simply wins here. Stepfan was also part of a 1-2 punch, so he gets dinged there. So by elimination: Le’Veon Bell!
Position: Running Back
Le’Veon ran for 900 yards on 165 carries for 5.5 YPC last season against a decent slate of Big Tweleven opponents. He also tacked on 11 TDs. He was definitely efficient, and somewhat of a workhorse, and he’ll be leaned on more with Cousins and his amazing speeches off to greener pastures.
I also chose Bell because MSU running backs just seem to give ND fits. We did a decent job holding Bell to just over 100 yards last year, but it was still a 100 yard game for him.
I don’t see any RBs on the slate this season as something to really, really fear, but Bell will be a solid opponent, and ND will need to do a good job of shutting him down early to put pressure on a new starting QB.