MISSOULA – The Montana Grizzlies had more depth at wide receiver than any other position when Bobby Hauck took over the program. So the coach has moved some of the surplus to defense. And one former offensive standout looks ready for a big role in his new spot.
Justin Calhoun is working out at cornerback in fall camp. The 5-foot-10 junior started at receiver most of the last two years, hauling in 80 catches for 1,210 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This switch wasn’t only a coach’s decision based on need, though. Calhoun approached the UM staff about making the move. He played the position a lot in high school, but says cornerback is not like riding a bike.
“It was kind of tough controlling my eyes and looking at the receivers hips. And being able to read the quarterback has actually been kind of tough for me, honestly, the first couple of weeks,” admitted Calhoun. “But I’m getting the hang of it. It’s going pretty well. I think coming to the dark side was a good thing for me. And I’m loving it a lot right now.”
“We’d do one-on-ones after practice, stuff like that in the summer,” explained sophomore Lewis Cowans, who is battling with Calhoun for playing time at cornerback. “And I could see he’s a natural DB. So him making the transition was obvious, honestly, especially since we needed depth.’
“We think he’s a pretty dang good player,” praised Hauck. “There’s a lot of depth at wide receiver, guys that are proven playmakers. We don’t have that at corner. So we need competition there. And he’s done a nice job.”
Overall, a position for the Grizzlies that looked like a big question mark in the spring might have found some good answers this fall. The UM secondary only brings back one starter but looks like it now has plenty of talent.
Junior safety Josh Sandry is the only player with significant experience. But safety transfers Gavin Robertson, Reid Miller, and Bobby Hauck’s son, Robby, instantly join the mix. Sophomore corners Cowans, Dareon Nash and Gavin Crow continue to develop. And Calhoun adds another option. f
So far in Fall camp the secondary is more than holding its own against the Grizzlies better known pass catchers on offense.
“I think that we’re actually coming along well, the DBs in general are coming along very well,” said Calhoun. “We’re getting after the receivers, getting after the offense. We’ve forced a lot of turnovers and pass breakups so far. I think right now the DBs are winning.”
“I would say that group has a chance to be a strength,” admitted Hauck. “If you would have asked me that a week ago that was an unknown. But those guys have done a good job. They’re working against good players in practice every day, which makes them better. Early reviews would be I think we’ll be able to hold up there.”
Montana’s defense will get a chance to go full contact for the first time in a closed scrimmage on Saturday.