Wood cracks Heisman Pundit watch list

We expressed our surprise in this space a month ago when Cierre Wood was pegged a Heisman darkhorse by the Heisman Pundit. But it appears Wood may be a little more than a darkhorse with the spring season wrapped up.

The Heisman Pundit released its first 18-man watch list for the award Wednesday, and Wood makes the cut. He will face three others from the watch list this coming season, as USC's Matt Barkley, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Michigan's Denard Robinson all appear on the list, too.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Wood was largely overshadowed last year because of senior Jonas Gray's feel-good breakout campaign. The fact Notre Dame returns a running back who notched 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior cannot be overlooked, especially with most of the offensive line returning.

But strong springs from Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III have left me more convinced than I was a month ago that Wood simply won't get the touches needed to be in the conversation throughout the season. Nonetheless, the expectations are high for the senior entering 2012, and the backfield depth should only help his play, regardless of whether or not he gets any hardware for it.