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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."

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If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

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Kyle Schwarber’s proper introduction to the Cubs-Sox rivalry came in the summer of 2015 when a fan on the South Side threw a half-empty “tall boy” at him in left field. A little more than a year removed from college, Schwarber didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t finish all the beer first.  

David Ross chimed in, raising his voice loud enough so Schwarber and a group of reporters could hear him inside the visiting clubhouse: “You should have shotgunned it and then went over there and found him.

“I tell you what: I’d hate to try to wrap up Kyle Schwarber. I guarantee you that whoever threw that beer doesn’t want (any) part of Kyle Schwarber. I promise you that one.”

That was the rookie orientation before Schwarber: blasted five playoff home runs that October; suffered a devastating knee injury that almost wiped out his entire 2016 season; made a dramatic return to the World Series; and experienced newfound fame and fortune that would change his life forever.

Mess with Schwarber? That aura of invincibility is gone after his detour to Triple-A Iowa before the All-Star break. But the first-place Cubs will take Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the White Sox as another sign that he is almost back, yet another reason why the defending champs look ready to continue this second-half surge. 

“I told him that if he had a couple more push-ups in there, he would have had three homers tonight, but we’ll take a triple,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said afterward. “Schwarber’s been swinging the bat great since he’s been back.”

No doubt, the Cubs caught the sell-mode White Sox at the right time during the final days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Even in going 3-for-4 and blasting his 16th and 17th home runs – which traveled 814 feet combined at Guaranteed Rate Field – Schwarber is still only hitting .191 with 90 strikeouts in 79 games this season.     

But the Cubs have always given Schwarber the benefit of the doubt and will point to his big personality and encouraging numbers since his Triple-A reset ended on July 6, getting on base almost 37 percent of the time and hitting safely in 10 of 13 games with five homers, three doubles and that triple.

“Retrospectively, we should not have expected that much,” manager Joe Maddon admitted. “I’m guilty of that kind of a narrative or a dialogue also, because I was really eager to watch him play a full season of Major League Baseball.

“But the guy missed the whole season and did really well in a small window of time at the end of the year. So maybe my expectations exceeded what they should have been.

“I do believe he is that good. I do believe you’re going to come back and see him play at the level we anticipated. But he might have just needed more time. And we just didn’t recognize that.

“I might have been as guilty as anybody regarding the promotion of that. But I believe in him fully. I know it’s going to happen. There’s been some really good major-league hitters that have gone through the same thing.” 

At this point, the Cubs (54-47) would love to see what kind of wrecking ball Schwarber could be for a half-season. To his credit, Schwarber has been the same throughout all the ups and downs, someone who looks and sounds like a guy you would drink tall boys with.

“I just want to worry about putting the barrel on the ball,” Schwarber said. “I’m just trying to stay within myself, be short (with my swing) and it’s paying off.”