Notre Dame senior Cierre Wood will pass on his final year of college eligibility and declare for this spring’s NFL Draft, according to the school.
Irish senior Cierre Wood ran for four touchdowns this season, including a 68-yard score against Wake Forest on Senior Day.
Wood ran for 2,445 yards in his three years on the field for the Irish. In 2011, he became the first back to rush for more then 1,000 yards in a season since Darius Walker. His carries were cut in half this season as fellow senior and roommate Theo Riddick emerged as the team’s feature back. Wood averaged 6.7 yards per carry on his 110 touches in the past year.
"Having to make a decision like whether to stay in school or leave to pursue a lifelong dream of playing in the NFL is never simple," Wood said in a statement released by the university. "I had to weigh many factors over the last month, but ultimately it came down to what I felt was the right decision that would most benefit my family. With that in mind, I'm leaving Notre Dame and am entering my name for this year's NFL Draft."
Wood said one of his main motivations for leaving early would be the ability to be with and provide for his one-year-old daughter who currently lives in Las Vegas with her mother. He said that the way this season ended would not affect his decision one way or another following Monday’s 42-14 loss to Alabama.
He sat out the first two games of the regular season after violating team rules and never completely worked his way back into the role he held a season ago. Often outspoken when given the chance to speak, Wood denied that he and head coach Brian Kelly had a contentious relationship after his suspension.
“It took me a while to get used to him — same thing with him getting used to us, and me in particular. When I was in trouble and all that stuff, he had my back the whole time,” Wood told Blue & Gold Illustrated two days before the national championship game in Miami last week. “He was in my head making sure I was stable and making sure my mind wasn’t wandering. I would say my relationship with him is very, very good.”
"Cierre has been an important member of our football team in my three years at Notre Dame," Kelly said in a statement. "I appreciate all he did to help get our program back on top. I wish him well in the future and hope he has a successful playing career at the next level."
Most draft analysts project the six-foot, 215-pound Wood will be selected in the third or fourth round of this April’s draft. He will spend the coming months trying to improve that status while working out in his native California, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
Wood’s departure leaves Notre Dame without its top two running backs from a resurgent attack that averaged 202.5 rushing yards per game in the 2012 regular season. Wood and Riddick combined for 60 percent of the team’s carries this season.
Sophomore George Atkinson III becomes the veteran in the running backs room this spring. He’ll share time with USC transfer Amir Carlisle, freshman Will Mahone and possibly fellow junior Cam McDaniel. The Irish are also expecting a pair of four-star prospects from Florida — Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston — to join that group on campus in the summer.