Saturday, April 19, 2008

In the Woods

We'll have full-scale reports from our on-scene reporters later (if at all, seeing as how some of them decided they were too cool to actually, you know, attend the game) but despite the fact I was nowhere near South Bend today, I still got a third-hand peek at the future of Notre Dame football.

It so happened that a colleague of mine (big UCLA fan) was discussing the insanity surrounding Nebraska's spring game (80,000+ turned out, with free tickets being sold for $100 on eBay) and I dropped in how I'd just heard that Notre Dame secured a commitment from Cierre Wood. He began telling me about how he'd refereed a fall game between Wood's Santa Clara HS and Flintridge Prep. "You could just tell from looking at him how above everybody he was with ability", he gushed. "Head and shoulders ahead of anybody, even on his own team." Wood also impressed with his composure and manners. "Nicest kid", my friend remarked, "real even-keeled, never obnoxiously jacked-up, never really upset. Great talent, great attitude."

Intrigued, I went home and looked up the stats from this game, a 33-7 victory for Santa Clara. I figured it would take a fair amount of digging considering how vast the high school system of California is, but I came across it pretty easily. Here was Wood's statline:
5 rushes, 151 yards, 2 TDs
1 reception, 60 yards, 1 TD
1 punt return, 52 yards
Defense: 4 tackles, 2 interceptions
Punts: 3 for 126yds (42 yd avg), long of 51
He also kicked one PAT, ran in another and scored 21 points total. I'm just trying to wrap my mind around that first line, however: 151 yards on five touches. 30 yards per carry. Now, immediately I went about calming myself by thinking that plenty of "stud, hyped-as-all-get-out" players can put up those kind of "Bo Jackson-in-TecmoBowl" numbers against high school teams, where the competition is wildly inconsistent. Even so, I started trying to list all the players I've seen who might be capable of it. Not many names come to mind that didn't end in Bush, Peterson, or McFadden.

Rest assured there's now plenty to talk about after this weekend for both the on-field Irish (offense defeated defense today 47-46 in the Blue-Gold Game) and those who are waiting in the wings. This much seems quite clear: Cierre Wood is an unbelievably skilled athlete, the kind Notre Dame hasn't come close to getting until recently. The coolest head among us, Broadway, is of course wise to measure "returns" in lean muscle and not stat-sheet hype, but I'd rather have a player like Wood with us then lining up for another school in Southern California. Here's a few sideline-level highlights from a late October game when he rushed for 370 yards:

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