Blackhawks

Emphasis on north-south running helps Irish RB Wood

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Emphasis on north-south running helps Irish RB Wood

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."

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Final thoughts and takeaways from scrimmage

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NBC Sports Chicago

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Final thoughts and takeaways from scrimmage

Thoughts and takeaways from the final day of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena, which featured the prospect scrimmage:

1. The standouts

In the middle of the week, GM Stan Bowman singled out Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Ian Mitchell and Alex Nylander as the four players who had stood out so far, in large part because they're on another level in terms of talent. Dach was taken No. 3 overall, Boqvist and Nylander were drafted No. 8 overall and Mitchell has first-round talent and the confidence to go with it.

In particular, Boqvist and Dach were easily the most noticeable prospects during Friday's scrimmage. They were flashy, creative and produced on the scoresheet. Boqvist finished with a primary assist — a beautiful setup, which you can see in the video below — while Dach scored two goals and added an assist. They were all over the ice. Check out the clips below, as the two of them dominated the highlight reel.

2. Additional observations

—  Josiah Slavin had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal with 6.9 seconds remaining. He made the most of his scrimmage, no doubt.

— Antti Saarela scored two goals, one of which came on a penalty shot — see video below. 

— Nylander didn't seem as engaged as others, but his skill alone was enough for him to be noticeable. Good things happened when he was on the ice.

— Alexis Gravel was solid in net. He gave up only one goal and it came in the final minute of the first period when Dach scored on a breakaway.

— Nicolas Beaudin and Alex Vlasic were quiet, but in a good way. They were sound defensively.

3. Names to watch going forward

— Philipp Kurashev: A crafty playmaker with a heavy shot, Kurashev took a huge step in his development this past season. He led the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL with 65 points (29 goals, 36 assists) in 59 games and earned All-Star honors at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship after leading all skaters with six goals.

He's a smooth skater, fast, smart and strong on the puck. Kurashev will start the season in Rockford and is expected to play a large role. He was the hidden gem in the Ryan Hartman deal in 2018. The Blackhawks used their fourth-rounder acquired in that trade to take Kurashev.  

— MacKenzie Entwistle: This is a player to watch in Rockford this season simply because he knows his role and is really good at it. A bottom-six, versatile forward who can play center or win and is dependable on the penalty kill. Those are players coaches love to have at the next level because they accept their role and take pride in doing so. 

— Brandon Hagel: Here's a player who essentially fell into the Blackhawks' laps. The Buffalo Sabres drafted him in the sixth round (No. 159 overall) in 2016 but did not offer him a contract ahead of the June 1 deadline in 2018, so they lost his signing rights. The Blackhawks pounced in October by signing him to a three-year, entry-level contract.

And how did he follow his season up? By finishing fourth in the WHL in scoring with 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 66 games with the Red Deer Rebels for a points-per-game average of 1.55. It was a 43-point improvement from the previous season, albeit he played in 10 more games. 

Still, this is someone who the Blackhawks weren't expecting to have in their pipeline but he is and could turn into a solid player. A scout once told me Hagel is highly competitive, which is one of the top criteria for the Blackhawks when evaluating a young player. Hagel appeared in eight games for Rockford last season and compiled only one point, but it's a small sample size. It will be interesting to follow his progression in his first year as a pro and playing against bigger men.

Other notes:

— Jake Wise participated in on-ice sessions all week but did not play in the scrimmage. He's still working his way back from a shoulder injury.

— Other non-participants: Evan Barratt (hip), Parker Foo, Dominik Kubalik (rest), Niklas Nordgren (injury) and Tim Soderlund (visa issues).

Scrimmage videos:

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42 Days to Kickoff: Glenbard East

42 Days to Kickoff: Glenbard East

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Glenbard East

Head coach: John Walters 

Assistant coaches: Bob Stone (OC), Tony Bartolotta (OL), Joe Cristina (WR), Brian Fetterolf (RB), Steve Kuchefski (OL), Tiff Hamilton (DL), Jim Walker (DL), Maurice Mason (OLB), Jeff Cherry (DC) and Dennis Lueck (DB)

How they fared in 2018: 10-1 (9-0 Upstate 8 Conference). Glenbard East made the Class 7A IHSA state football playoff field and defeated Prospect. In the second round, they lost to East St. Louis.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Elgin

Sept. 6 vs Bartlett

Sept. 13 @ West Chicago

Sept. 20 @ Fenton

Sept. 27 vs South Elgin

Oct. 4 vs East Aurora

Oct. 11 @ Streamwood

Oct. 18 vs Glenbard South

Oct. 25 vs Larkin

Biggest storyline: Last season was one of the most successful seasons in Glenbard East football history. Can the Rams keep the momentum going this fall?

Names to watch this season: S Jason Torrevillas (Sr.) and WR Deon Cook (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Rams will need to replace 16 graduated starters from last year's roster.

EDGY's Early Take: Glenbard East made the state playoffs in 2018 for just the second time in school history. The Rams will need to reload quite a bit on both sides of the football, yet Walters’ football program has never been in better shape— both from an overall excitement level and community involvement. The 2019 schedule also gives the Rams better than a fighting chance to make a potential state playoff bid this season.