Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood announced Monday he is entering the NFL Draft, deciding against returning for a final year of eligibility.
The 6-foot, 215-pound senior, who did not play as a freshman, was second on the team this past season with 742 yards rushing on 114 carries, including 2 yards on four carries in a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS title game. He sat out the first two games of the season after being suspended by coach Brian Kelly for violating team rules.
He rushed for 2,447 yards on 450 carries in three seasons as the Irish, finishing seventh on Notre Dame's all-time list. His 5.4 yards per carry is the most for any Irish back with that many carries. His best season was in 2011, when he led the Irish with 1,102 yards rushing on 217 carries. He rushed for a career-high 191 yards in a game against Purdue in 2011.
Wood, who has a 1-year-old daughter, said it wasn't an easy decision.
''I had to weigh many factors over the last month, but ultimately it came down to what I felt was the right decision that would most benefit my family,'' he said in a statement released by the school.
Kelly wished Wood well.
''Cierre has been an important member of our football team in my three years at Notre Dame and I appreciate all he did to help get our program back on top,'' he said.
The Irish also lose leading rusher Theo Riddick, who arrived at Notre Dame in the same recruiting class as Wood. Although Wood came in as a much higher rated recruit, Riddick got on the field immediately as a freshman while Wood struggled to learn blocking schemes and with homesickness. The two, who are close friends and lived in the same house, said there was never any rivalry between them.
The top returning rusher for the Irish is George Atkinson III, a speedy back who ran for 361 yards on 51 carries, an average of 7.1 yards a carry. The Irish will have Amir Carlisle, a transfer from Southern Cal who missed the 2012 season with a foot injury after missing much of his freshman season with the Trojans with injuries. The Irish also are expected to sign several high school backs on Feb. 6, including highly rated backs Greg Bryant from Delray Beach, Fla., and Tarean Folston from Cocoa, Fla.
The announcement comes two days after Kelly said he would return to the Fighting Irish in 2013 after talking with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles about their head coaching job.