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March 23, 2010

Position switches already in play

The only depth chart move Cierre Wood made this off-season was up.

The freshman running back has turned into a message board typing point since his red-shirt season when the former national recruit was rooted to the bench. New head coach Brian Kelly is determined to get the former U.S. Army All-American on the field, part of the reason why Theo Riddick shifted to receiver.

Although Riddick will be limited during spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery, his move will clean a cluttered depth chart just the same.

"I think I mentioned how important it is to get your playmakers on the field," Kelly said. "We also opened up space for Cierre Wood. Here's another guy who was sitting fourth on the depth chart with two seniors. It was going to be hard to get him on the field. We need to get him on the field as well.

"Moving Theo, we believe that he's got the ability to catch the football at the line of scrimmage and make big plays for us. And then it gets Cierre Wood now into the football game. I think that has kind of a double-pronged effect because it gets both those guys on the field."

Kelly's other pre-spring roster moves won't get the publicity of shuffling Riddick and Wood, but they should ground two shaky areas on defense. The Irish lack bodies at inside linebacker and defensive end, which meant subtracting Steve Paskorz from fullback and Lane Clelland from offensive tackle made sense.

Paskorz returns to linebacker where he was recruited by many programs, including Notre Dame. He never made an impact at fullback, getting beat out by walk-on tight end Bobby Burger and playing just 8:01 last season. Clelland played just 14:38 last season after taking a red-shirt as a freshman.

"We needed some more size and strength," Kelly said of Clelland's move. "We need (Paskorz) to give us stronger, bigger, more physical players. I think we all saw that we needed to stop the run last year, we needed to get bigger and we couldn't do it through recruiting. We needed to do it through players on our roster."

The moves should help Kelly create competition, which is high on his spring to-do list.

"There really is no first group, second group, third group," Kelly said. "It's a collection of players. There's going to be competition at every position. That's one thing I create in our program 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

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