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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Nwoko ready to go into ‘beast mode’ for Arizona football


Beast mode.

That’s how Marshawn Lynch, a Seattle Seahawks running back and Skittles enthusiast, describes his mindset when he steps on the football field.

“Beast mode for me is just a state of mind,” Lynch said in a YouTube video. “Someone asks ‘What’s your mindset when you step on the field?’ It’s beast mode. No one wants to deal with no beast.”

The Arizona football team might just have its own version of beast mode in senior back Greg Nwoko. At least that’s how quarterback Matt Scott describes the 6-foot-1, 237-pound behemoth.

“Oh man, he’s a beast,” Scott said. “He’s lookin’ great, lookin’ strong. He’s going to be a great addition to this running back corps.”

The soft-spoken, Pflugerville, Texas, native isn’t quite as boastful about his inner beast as Lynch, or even as much as his teammates like Scott are about him.

“I guess so, whatever he says,” a laughing Nwoko said. “I mean, I’m a power runner and I can do speed and everything.”

Nwoko hasn’t had much of a chance to put his “beast” on display, as the ACL injury bug that ended the seasons of four key Wildcats defensive players wasn’t limited to that side of the ball. About a year ago, during spring ball, Nwoko tore his ACL as he tried to avoid a tackler while making a cut.

Cornerback Jonathan McKnight and linebacker Jake Fischer, two of the defenders who suffered ACL injuries, have talked in the spring about how difficult it was for them sitting on the sidelines instead of playing alongside their teammates on the field. For Nwoko, it was difficult too, but he actually enjoyed watching his teammates perform — especially two of his talented backfield mates.

“It was pretty hard sitting out there,” Nwoko said. “But I enjoyed watching Ka’Deem (Carey) and DJ (Daniel Jenkins) out there, so it was still exciting.”

After two solid seasons following a redshirt freshman year, Nwoko was expected to play a key role in the backfield for Arizona last year under then-head coach Mike Stoops. This year, the Wildcats are stacked at the running back position with guys like Carey and Jenkins, fullback Taimi Tutogi and the emerging Kylan Butler. But new head coach Rich Rodriguez has been impressed with Nwoko so far, and for a coach that over the course of the career has made his team run the ball a whole lot more then it’s passed it, don’t expect Nwoko to be lost in the shuffle. That is, assuming Nwoko stays healthy.

“He’s been really good in the offseason workouts and he’s a big athletic guy,” Rodriguez said. “He understands football and I think part of it with Greg has been staying healthy throughout his career. If he can stay healthy and show some physicalness in blocking and in running, he’s a guy that can do a lot of big things for us.”

Under Stoops, Nwoko ran for a total of 543 yards and six touchdowns in 23 games — not huge numbers, but solid considering the pass-first tendencies of Stoops and the presence of former runners Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby.

Nwoko prides himself on the ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and that attribute is what led Rodriguez and co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Calvin Magee to move him to a new position — H-back, which is considered a tight end and fullback hybrid.

“I’m in a new position this year, but I like it,” Nwoko said. “At H-back, there’s more blocking and I run the ball too so I’ll be more versatile.”

At the start of camp, his coaches could tell he was a little antsy coming off the injury, but Nwoko said that he is “pretty much” at 100 percent.

“Nwoko’s looking good,” Magee said. “I think when he started out I think he was tentative trying to make sure his legs were under him but as time goes he’s starting to pick it up.”

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