No-Frills Jim McElwain Approach Suits Chris Nwoke…& Vice Versa


Sonny Lubick built Colorado State into a top 25 regular through the 1990s, reached bowl games in eight of 10 seasons from 1994 through 2003, and launched the career of one Urban Meyer. In fact, every CSU bowl game but its first (1949 Raisin) and last (2008 New Mexico) was under Lubick’s guidance.

Fort Collins can be the right place for a coach to flourish, and Jim McElwain has a blueprint for success that should suit the Rams just fine. His offensive recipe has yielded top 25 scoring offenses each of the past three seasons, and Alabama was no worse than No. 35 nationally with McElwain as offensive coordinator. Of course, for a recipe to come out, the proper ingredients are necessary. McElwain will have one very key ingredient from the onset in running back Chris Nwoke.

The CSU sophomore is the quintessential back for McElwain’s no-nonsense scheme, a sturdy 6-foot, 220-pound persistent rusher. Nwoke was good for over 1100 yards rushing and 5.7 per carry despite Ram opponents stacking the box. CSU had difficult establishing consistent quarterback play under Steve Fairchild — Pete Thomas and Garrett Grayson combined threw 14 interceptions and just nine touchdowns. That Nwoke excelled despite the CSU offense lacking dimensions is a testament to his potential.

And no offensive coordinator utilized a running back’s potential quite like McElwain these last few seasons. Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009, rushing for 17 touchdowns and nearly 1700 yards as the centerpiece of McElwain’s Pro Set. Trent Richardson was a Heisman finalist this season with 20 scores and nearly 1600 yards. In their respective starring seasons, each surpassed 260 carries. Nwoke finished 2011 with just 200, but can expect more looks fufilling a similar featured role.

Perhaps more promising for Nwoke’s prospects is how McElwain used quarterbacks. ‘Bama was no by means an air-it-out offense. The Tide succeeded with balance, its quarterbacks utilizing effective, short and medium-range routes while developing. A.J. McCarron stayed within the confines of the system with Richardson and Eddie Lacy taking on the bulk of the workload. McCarron completed two-thirds of his attempts, threw for modest yardage, but did enough to keep defenses honest.

Such a system would greatly benefit the Rams’ young quarterbacks as they mature, and Nwoke’s the quintessential player to shoulder the load. Detmer Award voters, consider the alarm sounded for 2012.