Player to Watch: RB Nnamdi Ohaeri

When Colorado State visits Folsom Field on Saturday (1:30 p.m.) to play the Buffs, they will have a different starter at running back than they did when the two teams met in 2004. All signs are pointing to that player being Nnamdi Ohaeri, who quickly moved up the CSU depth chart this month after transfering to the school this summer.

Ask CU linebacker Thaddaeus Washington about Colorado State running back Kyle Bell, and, even though Bell, a true sophomore, didn't play against the Buffs last season, Washington knows who you're talking about. He's watched game tape. He's also familiar with CSU senior Jimmy Green.

But Nnamdi Ohaeri?

"I don't know him," Washington said on Monday.

Gary Barnett also said on Monday the Buffs know Ohaeri is "a real tough kid." That insight comes from current Colorado GA Mike Babcock, who was a GA at UCLA, where Ohaeri played from 2002-03 before leaving the Bruins program. But Ohaeri played on defense for the Bruins and Babcock never saw Ohaeri play as a running back.

Though they're not familiar with Ohaeri — the running back — now, the Buffs will become acquainted Saturday. One longtime CSU observer who has watched CSU practice extensively this August says the 5-9, 200-pound running back could be special.

Ohaeri transferred to CSU this fall from San Bernardino Valley Community College. Before that, Ohaeri played cornerback at UCLA. Before that, Ohaeri, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, was rated as a four-star tailback prospect by Scout.com in 2002 as a senior at Aquinas High School in San Bernardino.

Ohaeri turned down offers from Notre Dame, Stanford, Cal and USC, among several others, to play at UCLA. After he got to Westwood, he was switched to the defensive secondary, a move he eventually decided he didn't like, thus his transfer.

Former CSU assistant Matt Lubick had connections in southern California, and got Ohaeri to consider Fort Collins.

He entered CSU's August camp No. 5 at fullback, the term used for the running back in CSU's one-back offense. Two weeks later he was running with the first team. It looks like he'll draw the start vs. Colorado on Saturday.

Ohaeri differs from the two CSU backs who have had the most success during Lubick's tenure — Kevin McDougal and Cecil Sapp. Those two running backs took on would-be tacklers head on. Word is that Ohaeri has much greater burst than those two players, and is probably the fastest running back at CSU, at least since Damon Washington (1995-98). Ohaeri can cut and go.

It appears the Rams will add a new look to its backfield this fall, as well. They have practiced some with a two-back set, where 248-pound Tristan Walker lines up in the traditional blocking fullback role (termed B-back by CSU coaches) along with another ballcarrier. Look for them to employ this in short yardage situations.

Whoever is carrying the ball on Saturday, CSU's running game will be a key to their offensive success. Last season the Rams struggled running the ball, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and 111 yards per game. Both numbers were the lowest in the Lubick era at CSU.

If they have their way, CSU offensive minds would like to pound CU with its run game to set up quarterback Justin Holland's receivers in the vertical passing game.


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