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Montana running back Jordan Canada rushed for 586 yards during the 2012 season. 

Michael Gallacher/Missoulian

By his own admission, this whole college running back thing has taken a while to completely grasp for Jordan Canada.

At times the Montana junior has been outstanding. Other times he’s struggled with the demands placed upon him, whether they be physical or in the classroom.

“Not to make myself sound bad, but when you come in as a young student athlete usually you tend to put football first and you tend to slack on the first aspect of school, which is going to school,” said Canada, who ranked second in rushing for the Griz last season with 586 yards.

“That was one of my shortcomings when I first got here. Then with football there’s more expected out of you so I even slacked in that area. I feel like I’m starting to understand now what’s expected of me as a leader and a player who wants to help this team. I’m finally making those sacrifices.”

Ask Montana coach Mick Delaney and he will tell you the light bulb clicked on for Canada in the spring. Maybe he realized his load was going to be heavier with the graduation of Montana’s leading ground gainer from 2012, Peter Nguyen. Perhaps he just decided it’s now or never as he chases his ultimate goal of a pro career.

“You just look at him physically and he’s 10 or 11 pounds heavier,” Delaney said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s worked really hard in the weight room. He looks more physical.

“He never missed a practice in the spring. He never missed anything in the summer. His problem in the past has been a tweak here, an injury and this here, that there. I really believe he’s worked hard enough now that it’s going to enable him to stay healthy.”

For the record, Canada reached 195 pounds at one point but with the loss of water weight he’s currently around 190. That’s about seven pounds heavier than his playing weight in 2012.

Canada is excited to put his new physique to the test in Montana’s new pro-set offense.

“It’s a running scheme,” explained the California product, who is also a highly dependable receiver out of the backfield. “It’s on the shoulders of the running backs so I feel me and (backup running back) Tra (Van) are going to have outstanding years.

“We have a new fullback who is going to help us out,” he added, referring to Boise State transfer Jamal Wilson. “I think it’s beautiful. As a running back you can’t ask for more.”

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From Delaney’s perspective, Day 2 of Montana’s fall camp was not exactly a thing of beauty amid temperatures that reached the mid-90s at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

There were moments when the passing game clicked with Jordan Johnson at the helm, including one sequence when he hit Taylor Walcott and Ellis Henderson for back-to-back touchdown bombs in 7-on-7 competition. There were also positives defensively, including strong safety Bo Tully’s pickoff of a Johnson pass in a 1-on-1 drill.

But field goal personnel struggled, resulting in extra calisthenics for the Grizzlies. Redshirt freshman Harrison Greenberg and true freshman Ben Worst each missed 34-yard field goals. Montana’s holders, Cam Warren and junior free safety Matt Hermanson, struggled to control errant snaps.

“It’s got to be offense, defense and the kicking game,” lamented Delaney. “(The kicking game) will lose for you just as well as a guy running for a touchdown or fumbling the ball.

“It’s unacceptable not to execute at 100 percent in the kicking game. That’s why we started today with competition. It was high competition as far as mental pressure. We have to get better at it.”

Two positives in the area of special teams were Chris Lider’s field goal from 41 yards out and the punting of Stephen Shaw. He has picked up where he left off in the spring, hitting 55-yarders with consistency.

As for the vaunted Griz defense, which returns 10 starters from 2012, defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak says the true test will come Thursday when they break out the pads.

“We’re doing some stuff with our cornerbacks, you can see we’re trying to be pretty aggressive with them at the line of scrimmage,” he explained.

“They just need to keep working their techniques. It’s a very technique-oriented position and I want to be aggressive out there. Minus pressure aggressiveness, I want to be aggressive in 4-man rushes and we just have to be technicians in our secondary.”

QUICK KICKS: Many of the players grabbed a bottle of Powerade after practice and made the short walk from the stadium for a quick swim in the Clark Fork River ... Trent McKinney got a lot of reps as second team quarterback ... Montana will continue its one-a-day practice schedule Thursday, Friday and Saturday ... The Grizzlies’ first two-a-day is Sunday. They will hold their first scrimmage of fall camp under the lights in conjunction with their second practice Sunday, with the action starting around 7:45 p.m.

Reporter ​Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net.

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Deputy Sports Editor