LOS ANGELES -- Cierre Wood's 2012 stats aren't eye-popping -- 720 yards, four touchdowns -- but make no mistake, he's the most explosive weapon Notre Dame's offense has.
"He is locked in," coach Brian Kelly said. "He's getting more north and south in his running. The insideoutside zone scheme is set to run north and south. We don't want a lot of cutting."
Wood's propensity to cut and move to his left and right has cost him on some occasions, as did a two-game suspension to begin the season. But in Wood's nine games in 2012, he hasn't averaged fewer than five yards per carry, and has broke off touchdown runs of 62 and 68 yards.
On both those long runs, Wood powered through a hole and took off -- he wasn't trying to juke anyone. That's been a coaching point for Kelly, especially as it relates to Wood in Notre Dame's blocking setup.
"It is much more difficult to make a headon tackle," Kelly explained. "It's easier to run with speed and make an angle tackle. When you're running north and south, we have run through so many tackles this year when we get north and south, and so that's been a point of emphasis going into the fall."
Wood has made it no secret he wants more carries, but knows Notre Dame's crowded backfield -- which includes his roommate, Theo Riddick, and sophomore George Atkinson III -- means he'll rarely get more than 20 carries in a game. He admitted earlier in the year that his decreased carries have led him to try to break big plays every time he touches the ball.
"I see a hole, Im trying to get through as fast as possible and get tot he next level because I know there isnt any secondary out there that can handle me, let alone the rest of the RBs and stuff," Wood said in October. "Once I get to that level its all about just making the next man miss and taking it to the crib."
What Kelly and his coaching staff have tried to drive into Wood's mentality, though, is that the best way to be that big-play guy is to run downhill. He did that against Wake Forest, taking an option pitch from Everett Golson and running through the Deacons' defense for a touchdown.
"He was looking to cut off of somebody, you know, he was resisting the temptation," Kelly said of the option play. "When he runs north and south, we all know what he's capable of."