Notre Dame's Wood gets his swagger back

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Notre Dame's Wood gets his swagger back

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Three weeks ago, Cierre Wood sat at his South Bend apartment, only able to watch from his couch as his teammates rumbled by Navy in Dublin, Ireland.

"I actually got up to watch it, I like to sleep in and stuff like that," Wood deadpanned. "I woke up and I watched it. I had to cheer on my teammates. Thats what a good leader does, thats what a good teammate does and thats what I was doing."

That's all Wood could do. He was serving the first of his two-game suspension that week, stuck in northern Indiana while Notre Dame traveled thousands of miles to play in Dublin.

"It was terrible," Wood said. "I was cheering on my teammates, being a great team player, and stuff like that. But just not playing was terrible. You practice all summer, put in so much work and so much time, and to not play those first two games was heartbreaking, especially for me. But I remain positive, my teammates kept me up and I just cheered them on from afar."

But in making the best of a bad situation, Wood had a little fun with the game on Twitter:

Well that scrimmage is over! ND

DUBB (@stadium20status) September 1, 2012
When he wasn't on twitter, Wood was texting fellow running back and roommate Theo Riddick, who gouged Navy for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

"I was just critiquing him, I was basically laughing at him because a couple times I know he got hit and it hurt," Wood said with a grin. "I texted him, I was like I know that hurt.'"

"I said yeah," Riddick laughed. "It was the truth."

Wood started taking those hard hits in game action last week in East Lansing, gaining 56 yards on 10 carries against Michigan State. He led Notre Dame in rushing last year with 1,102 yards and an average of about 18 carries per game.

Both numbers will certainly be lower this year, with Wood missing the first two games and the Irish featuring three running backs instead of two. Wood admitted he had trouble getting into a rhythm against Michigan State as he, Riddick and George Atkinson III were cycled into the offense, but sees employing the three backs as a positive.

"The way we come in and come out, its basically fresh legs on the field at all times, so its like nobody never really came out as far as the running backs go," Wood said. "All three of us have a great amount of talent, so them putting us around different positions on the field is going to make our team that much better."

Wood normally exudes confidence, but kept his gaze downward while talking to media for the first time this season on Wednesday, seemingly bracing for the first question about his suspension. But once he got past that, Wood's usual swagger showed through.

When asked about his practice rivalry with Manti Te'o -- the pair are close -- Wood quickly responded with plenty of bravado, and a straight face.

"He thinks he can guard me, but he cant," Wood said. "I dont care how good he is, he cant guard me."

And in discussing last year's last-second loss to Michigan, Wood offered another proclamation.

"In any game you cant be too sure about anything, you cant take your foot off the gas pedal," he explained. "Thats what I feel we did, the results were what they were.

"This year, theres gonna be a different outcome."

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Pittsburgh RB James Conner

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Pittsburgh RB James Conner

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

6'1" | 233 lbs.

2016 stats:

216 CAR, 1,092 YDS, 16 TD | 21 REC, 302 YDS, 4 TD

Projection:

Fourth-to-fifth round

Scouting Report:

"Physical, battering-ram style runner who makes the hitting a two-way affair. Conner's lack of speed and reactive quickness could limit his role as a pro, but his heart, work ethic and ability to keep the chains moving could make him a red-zone specialist with the ability to handle some third down duties as well." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles

Reports: New contract extensions for Chris Collins, Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern

Reports: New contract extensions for Chris Collins, Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern

It's not difficult to argue that Northwestern's highest-profile programs are in the best shape they've ever been in.

So it should come with little surprise that both head basketball coach Chris Collins and head football coach Pat Fitzgerald are reportedly receiving new contract extensions. Big ones.

A pair of separate ESPN reports Monday evening describe that the Cats' coaches have agreed to extensions that will keep them in Evanston for quite some time.

According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman, Collins and Northwestern have agreed to what Goodman describes as a "lengthy" contract extension, one impressive enough that the reporter suggests only an "elite" head-coaching job could pry Collins away from the Wildcats.

"Northwestern's Chris Collins has agreed to a lengthy contract extension, source told ESPN," Goodman reported Monday afternoon. "Would likely take an elite college or NBA job for him to leave Evanston."

Then there's the tweet from ESPN's Brett McMurphy, reporting that Fitzgerald will be sticking with the Cats for the next decade.

In basketball, a contract bump is no shock considering Collins just accomplished what no one before him ever did in getting Northwestern to the NCAA tournament. The Cats recorded a program-record 24 wins, scored big wins at Wisconsin and at home against Michigan, reached the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament and defeated Vanderbilt for the school's first-ever NCAA tournament victory.

Collins' work in his four seasons has been nothing short of remarkable, taking a perennial Big Ten basement-dweller of a program, bringing in the highest-rated recruits the school has ever seen and turning the Cats into a winning program in the league.

And that ascension could very well reach more new highs next season. Four of the team's five starters from this past season are returning — senior guard Bryant McIntosh, senior guard Scottie Lindsey, junior forward Vic Law and junior center Dererk Pardon — plus the team gets back an injured starter from the 2015-16 campaign in sharpshooter Aaron Falzon, not to mention several returning reserves.

On the gridiron, Fitzgerald has enjoyed perhaps more success than any Northwestern head football coach ever has, the head man for two of the four 10-win seasons in school history. In his 11 seasons, he's won 77 games and taken the Cats to seven bowl games, winning two of the last three of those postseason appearances, two of the three bowl wins Northwestern has ever had.

And just like Collins, Fitzgerald could be on the cusp of one of his most successful seasons. Running back Justin Jackson returns for his senior season this fall after leading the Big Ten in rushing last year, and junior-to-be Clayton Thorson looked much improved in his second season. The Cats are riding high this offseason after scoring a big 31-24 win over Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl and could be one of the top teams in the Big Ten West in 2017.

Both programs are also getting brand-new facilities, with football getting a sparkling new facility on the lakefront and basketball getting a completely renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena.

These are big times for Northwestern athletics.