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August 21, 2013

Wood faces depth chart climb

Lo Wood elevated at the goal line, breaking up a Tommy Rees pass ticketed for Chris Brown in the end zone.

It was the kind of competitive play Wood didn't make enough during his first two years at Notre Dame, which buried the former early enrollee on the depth chart behind older talent. But during Saturday's practice Wood delivered, a capable cornerback almost a year removed from a ruptured Achilles tendon that knocked him out of the starting lineup and helped KeiVarae Russell stage a historic freshman season.

Unfortunately for Wood, that play probably won't affect his depth chart standing.

Brian Kelly closed the door on any competition with Russell for the starting job opposite Bennett Jackson last week. And based on the weekend, Wood isn't in line for a nickel or dime job either. That work went to Cole Luke and Austin Collinsworth respectively.

That means Wood's path to playing time may start and stop with special teams barring a change in camp's final week.

It's not clear if Wood has graduated or fulfilled his graduation requirements after seven semesters and four summer school sessions. A source close to Wood indicated he had completed his graduation requirements, which would make him eligible immediately in the event of a transfer. However, a source at Notre Dame indicated Wood had yet to graduate and wouldn't be immediately eligible in the event of a transfer.

For now the cornerback is more focused on the field.

"Whatever happens, happens," Wood said. "It's not my decision, all I can do is keep playing.

"It's still hard. You've still got to always worry about your spot because you never know what can happen. If you just go out there and practice hard every day and have a good practice, that's the only thing you can do."

It's expected that Notre Dame will set depth charts later this week as training camp becomes less about internal competition and more about preparing for Temple. If Wood's position doesn't change, it could prompt him to look for opportunities elsewhere now that he's behind Russell and Luke, at least in the nickel.

Wood said he's still not 100 percent healthy in terms of strength after his season-ending injury, even if he's practicing full go. The coaching staff was careful with Wood during spring practice, not playing him during the Blue-Gold Game as tightness persisted in his left foot.

"As for not worrying about it tearing again, yes I felt that (I'm over that)," Wood said. "As for it being 100 percent stronger, not so much. It's way stronger than it was in the beginning of camp. It's still not as strong as my right leg of course.

"Each day I see myself stepping more and more toward that, like I used to be.
Just the power in my step, just getting all of my speed back and everything."

Wood said he hadn't talked to the coaching staff about his role as of last weekend, although it's expected that may occur this week. Until then all Wood can do is try to replicate the form that let him break up that Rees pass last weekend. Whether or not that boosts his playing time, Wood doesn't know.

"I'm still pushing," Wood said. "I've still got to do my job on the field and become a better corner, because if I become better that means the guys ahead of me, that means they'll become better too.

"To me, it's still a grind for me to go out there every day and just get better, that's what I'm working towards right now, just getting better every day."

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