If Brian Kelly is able to lead Notre Dame back to the BCS championship next year, he'll do so without the Irish's top two rushers from 2012.
Notre Dame knew it would be losing senior Theo Riddick, but junior running back Cierre Wood will also be leaving. He will forgo his senior season and is entering the 2013 NFL draft.
The 6-0, 215-pound Wood averaged an eye-popping 6.7 yards per carry for the Irish in 2012, finishing second to Riddick (880 yards) with 740 rushing yards and four touchdowns despite starting just four of the 10 games he played. Wood was suspended for the first two games of the season by Kelly for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Wood is a naturally elusive runner with the burst to and through the hole, plus lateral agility to make defenders miss. These traits, along with good vision, speed and size make him an intriguing NFL prospect with enough upside to warrant middle-round consideration.
Wood doesn't run as powerfully as his size would indicate and remains a bit rough around the edges as a pass blocker, however, which is why NFLDraftScout.com currently rates him as the No. 20 running back prospect in the 2013 draft.
The 2013 draft is lacking a consensus top running back prospect and therefore is perceived by some to be lacking in talent. There is good depth at the position, however, which makes Woods' leap a bit of a gamble. The difference between his being being drafted in the third round or the sixth could come down to the performance he has in pre-draft workouts and the feedback teams receive when investigating his suspension.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare themselves eligible for the 2013 NFL draft is Tuesday.