- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- At least these guys get along on the field.
Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick can't cramp each other's styles when splitting carries in Notre Dame's backfield, so their four-person apartment has become the setting of never-ending bickering between the two.
The manifestation of their hilariously odd relationship was evident Wednesday in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, with the two sitting a row apart from each other while fielding questions about how the talented backs stay content with one football to go around on Saturdays.
Turns out the gridiron is a safe haven for the duo.
"Theo is my roommate, so I see him whether I want to see him or not," said Wood, who rushed for 1,102 yards last season. "Me and him are like brothers. Just our personalities are so much alike. We all play around with each other and make jokes with each other and pull pranks on each other and stuff like that."
"We like to punch each other a little bit, but it's all out of love," Riddick cracked.
Riddick's complicated marriage with the running-back position over three seasons gave way to a hybrid back/slot role this season, and Wood's two-game suspension to start the campaign has allowed Riddick to tally team-highs of 80 carries, 308 rushing yards and 20 catches, with 170 receiving yards.
Despite Wood's 5.9-yards-per-carry average to Riddick's 3.9, coach Brian Kelly doesn't think the numbers tell the story of the two.
"We are looking at circumstances in the game, play call, matching of personnel versus the defensive personnel that's in the game," Kelly said. "A lot of those things are not seen within the statistical numbers. So we think they are all very good backs. I think if there's any comment that needs to be made on the three running backs is we still have to continue to get more touches for George Atkinson."
Yes, then there is Atkinson, who has displayed the most speed on the team in breaking off 55- and 56-yard touchdown runs on two of his 32 carries this season.
"Oh, definitely I'm the little one," the sophomore quipped. "So I'm always getting picked on from both of them. It's all fun, and I enjoy every moment I share with those guys."
Atkinson spends plenty of time at the upperclassmen's place, which also houses nose guard Tyler Stockton and non-football-playing friend Kevin.
"Kevin, uh … Hey, Theo, what's Kevin's last name?" Wood turned and asked one of his roommates when pressed for another's last name.
"Saunders," Riddick said, breaking off an answer to another question.
"Yeah, Sanders. It's Kevin Sanders. I see you dog," Wood affirmed.
Wood and Stockton had originally decided to live together and needed two more roommates. Wood then invited Sanders, a friend he met in a freshman-year class who, like Wood, is a neat freak.
As for the fourth?
"Theo just jumped in the mix: 'Hey, I want to be in there, too,' " Wood said. "That's how it happened. It became the best roommate corps ever."
The best thing since sliced bread, Wood later added while wearing the sweatpants of Riddick, who himself was decked out in the No. 92 sweatpants of Stockton. Stray shoes are fair game, too, though the mess usually comes in the basement inhabited by Riddick and Stockton, referred to internally as the cave.
Seemingly improbably, the senior running backs are much more comfortable sharing the leather on game days for the No. 5 Irish.
"We're just so close as friends, that that would never be a problem," Wood said of Riddick. "We've had times when we're arguing and stuff like that. But when we're on the field, we know what we have to do, what has to get done. That has never been a problem and never will be a problem."
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information