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Montana Griz position preview: UM in search of depth at running back position

Nick Ostmo.jpg
Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 12, 2021

(Editor's note: This is the second in an eight-part series highlighting the position groups and specialists for the Montana Grizzlies football team. For Part 1 on the quarterbacks, click here. For Part 3 on the wide receivers, click here. For Part 4 on the offensive line, click here. For Part 5 on the defensive line, click here. For Part 6 on the linebackers, click here. For Part 7 on the defensive backs, click here. For Part 8 on the special teams unit, click here).

MISSOULA -- Depth is a key element for the Montana running back core this upcoming fall.

The Grizzlies lost All-American running back Marcus Knight to injury back in the spring. Because of that, Nick Ostmo and Xavier Harris carried the load in the backfield for the Grizzlies in their two spring contests against Central Washington and Portland State.

For Ostmo, that came after a 2019 season where he was second on the team in rushing with 319 yards while adding two touchdowns on the ground as a true freshman, which paid dividends for his newfound workload.

"It was a lot of fun," Ostmo said about the spring. "I like getting in there and when you get your name called you kind of just got to jump in and do what you can and it sucked that Marcus went down but it’s always next man up and we’re waiting for him to get back and do what he does but until then we have to fill his role."

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Montana running back Xavier Harris runs through drills during fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021 at Dornblaser Field.

Ostmo and Harris -- who was a true freshman in the spring -- combined for seven total touchdowns on the ground during UM's two spring games, and the duo look poised to continue that trajectory this fall. Harris finished with 148 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the spring and added four catches for 34 yards. Meanwhile Ostmo finished with 130 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and added seven receptions for 73 yards and one more score.

But with Knight still out for the foreseeable future, Griz coach Bobby Hauck said the team needs to find more depth at running back among their returners, as well as the newcomers who are now added into the mix.

"In any offense, that position is maybe the most physical on the field, or certainly one of them, because they’re in a collision every play," Hauck said. "They’re either in protection or they’re running the ball so you got to have depth there."

Hauck highlighted Akron transfer Isiah Childs and Kalispell native Drew Turner as two players who have looked good in camp so far at the running back position. Childs redshirted at Akron last year after coming out of Wamego High School in Kansas rated as a three-star recruit. He then transferred to Montana for summer workouts.

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Montana running back Isiah Childs runs through drills during fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021 at Dornblaser Field.

Turner, a Kalispell Glacier product, said he's matured more as a player during his time at Montana to get to this point, and that the running back group as a whole is ready to step up and make a statement. In his career so far at UM, Turner has carried the ball 22 times for 108 yards and one touchdown.

"I think we’re all prepared," Turner said. "As a group we’re all super tight and we do everything together and I think it helps us hold together because we’re all there for each other in the end."

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Montana running back Drew Turner runs through drills during fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021 at Dornblaser Field.

Ostmo added that the focus right now is making sure the new players are acclimated to the current team and ready to go once the season begins.

"Just teaching the younger guys what to do, you know, the new guys," Ostmo said. "I think Ryan Arntson is our oldest guy and then the rest of them are juniors and sophomores, we don’t really have a senior so it’s just kind of getting those younger guys up to where they need to be and just like staying healthy and just getting everybody ready for the season."

Griz running backs on the 2021 roster by number

No. 13, Xavier Harris, FR, 5-foot-10, 182 pounds, Oxnard, CA
No. 14, Ryan Arntson, R-JR, 5-7, 180 pounds, Helena, MT
No. 21, Marcus Knight, JR, 6-1, 215 pounds, San Juan Capistrano, CA
No. 26, Nick Ostmo, SO, 6-0, 218 pounds, Portland, OR
No. 28, Isiah Childs, FR, 6-1, 205 pounds, Manhattan, KS
No. 30, Colter Janacaro, FR, 5-11, 214 pounds, Missoula, MT
No. 32, Drew Turner, R-SO, 6-0, 229 pounds, Kalispell, MT