Treshawn Favors

Running back Treshawn Favors, center, celebrates a touchdown with teammate Caleb Lyons against Sac State last season.

TOMMY MARTINO, Missoulian

Watching John Nguyen perform at pro day last month was a reality check for Treshawn Favors. His days as a Griz are limited.

"Me and John, we came in in the same class, and he's done -- he's gone," said a reflective Favors before Montana's spring practice Wednesday. "... This is my senior season and I've just got to put it all on the line."

The Grizzlies graduated two running backs from 2016's squad, bowling-ball Joey Counts and the fleet-footed Nguyen, who was part of UM's signing class of 2013 with Favors. Nguyen played that fall while his classmate redshirted, leading to a year of separation in their eligibility.

Favors waited his turn behind veterans Jordan Canada and Travon Van, but then Nguyen and Counts filled the hole ahead of him. Well, there's no waiting anymore.

With the grads gone and Montana's anticipated fall starter Jeremy Calhoun inactive for contact drills this spring due to injury, the fifth-year senior Favors is leading the pack of players looking to make their mark at running back.

The opportunity is there, RBs coach Justin Green said, and so far Favors is running with it tucked high and tight.

"He knows it's cuttin' time for him. His college football days are coming to a head here and it's kind of make it or break it," said Green, a former Griz and NFL back himself. "The great thing is, he's solid. He can do it all. He just needs to continue to build on that and that's gonna give him his opportunity."

Favors studied the past greats and has adopted aspects of their games, melding together Nguyen's tips on hitting the hole and Counts's physical running style.

"They're both such different people and there were little things you can learn from both of them," explained Favors, who is 5-foot-9 and 194 pounds. "I took notes from both of them that I can slowly incorporate into my game."

Favors has seen limited carries across the past three years as a backup, totaling 112, 111 and 56 yards per season. He's still searching for that first trip across the goal line in Washington-Grizzly Stadium and the home crowd's accompanying roar.

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The only knock on Calhoun's two years in Missoula has little to do with his performance. He's collected concussions and missed some time with injuries, or his numbers could be even grander.

The 6-foot, 203-pound rising junior is a touchdown machine, scoring nine times on the ground each season to go with 846 total rushing yards. 

"Everybody in the country should know that Jeremy is our starter -- at least to start off," Green said. "That's not an issue I'm concerned about."

The depth behind Calhoun is the question right now with Favors leading a group of mostly untested talent that also includes transfer Cody McCombs, youngster Rey Green and former cornerback Shane Moody.

McCombs (5-9, 188) came to Missoula a year ago from Division II Black Hills State, where he played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2015. The Billings West product redshirted in 2016 per NCAA transfer rules, but not before some impressive outings during last spring's scrimmages.

"This is critical for me, and all the running backs really. It's open competition and I'm going to show what I can do," McCombs said of a spring without Calhoun. "Now I can actually play in a scrimmage and know that I have a chance to play (in 2017), too."

Green (5-11, 190) could also contribute this fall after a productive redshirt season. For the former three-star recruit out of Vancouver, Washington, his year on the sideline helped his decision making catch up to his natural ability.

"That year, to just mentally develop, was big," Green began. "For me the physical aspect was easy really after the first few snaps, but the mental part you've got to really grind to understand the system and how plays go in college."

Moody comes to the offense after three years at CB. The former walk-on is small (5-8, 165) but has senior experience through a career of mostly special teams duty.

"So I know he's got some want-to in him," Green said. "That's what being a running back is. I've had a lot of little guys come through our program and be extremely successful because of their want-to."

And there's no shortage of desire in Favors and the running backs.

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