Heisman Pundit: Cierre Wood a dark horse

Hey, the last two Heisman Trophy winners didn't exactly enter their seasons as front-runners.

The Heisman Pundit looked at a dozen potential dark-horse candidates for college football's highest individual honor, and a Notre Dame player made the list.

Cierre Wood, Notre Dame – When you think of the backs out there who are primed for a big season, the first back who comes to mind is NOT Wood, who has had a quiet career for the Irish. I write ‘quiet’ because he’s managed to lead Notre Dame in rushing for two-straight years–including last year’s 1,102-yard effort–without a whole lot of fanfare, which seems unusual considering he was a relatively well-heralded recruit coming out of high school. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that Wood has a chance to break the Irish single-season rushing record of 1,437 yards set by Vagas Ferguson in 1979. The loss of Jonas Gray and his 114 carries means that Wood will be the bellcow for a Notre Dame offense that will probably emphasize the run more than ever. The emergence of running threats at quarterback like Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson will probably be to Woods’ benefit, too, as defenses will be unable to key on him. I see no reason why Woods wouldn’t get an extra 50 carries this season, which should put him into the 1,400-yard region.

I have said in this space before that Wood did not get nearly enough credit for his success last season, and he could be primed for another strong year with a majority of the offensive line coming back. With a plethora of backfield/slot threats, I think touches won't be as easy to come by as the Heisman Pundit thinks, and it will take a very strong early season performance for me to anoint Wood a Heisman contender, but it is definitely interesting to see the running back on the national radar.