Share and share alike for Notre Dame running backs
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In quiet moments at unit 628, away from the commotion of Notre Dame football, Theo Riddick will be lounging on the couch when Cierre Wood approaches and smacks him in the head. Likewise, Wood will be enjoying the serenity of his living room when Riddick, unprompted, belts him.
This is the rhythm of the Irish backfield, two would-be No. 1 tailbacks splitting time and possibly each other's lips, the entire arrangement a slap in the face.
“Just because I feel like it,” Wood said of the hand-to-head combat. “I'm taking my frustration out on him. He'll do the same thing. I'll just be sitting there, and he'll smack me in the face. But at the end of the day, it's all love between me and him.”
Riddick and Wood are housemates in an offensive time share, and their ability to live with each other allows BCS-ranked No. 5 Notre Dame to grind ahead. Wood was a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago and Riddick was a receiver until the end of 2011, and now both play while neither averages 70 yards per game.
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It's no great revelation to employ multiple runners; Alabama and Oregon are no worse for share, either. So there is Riddick and his elusiveness and pass-catching ability. There is Wood with his explosive speed and power combination. There is slap-fighting but no infighting with a pair of backhand complements.
“We always were really close, but I think that bond has helped us, in terms of being not selfish,” Riddick said of living with Wood. “Obviously, we have a lot of reasons to be selfish and get upset. However, when we see another person being successful, we're the first person to chant and clap for him.”
Sophomore George Atkinson III adds turbocharged speed and is second on the Irish with 290 yards — Riddick leads with 308, Wood has 279 after a two-game suspension to start the year — but it's the veterans who set the pace.
While some crow for more of one or the other, Irish coach Brian Kelly isn't budging.
“We are (making) way too much out of per carry statistics,” Kelly said. “We are looking at circumstances in the game, play call, matching of personnel versus the defensive personnel that's in the game. A lot of those things are not seen within the statistical numbers. We think they are all very good backs.”
And accustomed to a what's-mine-is-yours philosophy.
On Wednesday, Riddick showed up wearing the sweatpants of another housemate, defensive tackle Tyler Stockton. Wood wore sweatpants he said belonged to Riddick. The dynamic extends beyond the walls of the football complex and into unit 628.
“Everybody wears everybody's stuff,” Wood said. “There are shoes around everywhere. I usually put on whatever shoes I see and just walk out the door.”
At home, Wood shares the top floor with a non-football player named Kevin — whose last name is either Saunders or Sanders, neither Riddick nor Wood was totally sure — while Stockton and Riddick live on the bottom floor.
This area is referred to as “The Cave.”
“I walk down there, their floor would be so dirty, I can't even see the carpet,” Wood said. “Me and Kevin, our rooms are always clean. Theirs is like a dungeon.”
It is not difficult to guess Riddick's primary contribution to the complaint box.
“Sometimes (Wood) can talk too much,” Riddick said. “He doesn't know how to shut his hole. Other than that, he's a perfectly fine roommate.”
It's all fine, indeed. They are two alpha backs sharing space, time and apparently clothing. There are no signs of unhappiness setting in, everyone just running with it.
“We're so close as friends, that would never be a problem,” Wood said. “We've had times when we're arguing. But when we're on the field, we know what has to get done. That has never been a problem and never will be a problem.”
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