The competition for playing time in UConn’s backfield has one less contestant as running back Nate Hopkins has departed from the UConn football team. The news was first reported by the Journal Inquirer’s Neill Ostrout.
Hopkins came to UConn out of Flower Mound, Texas as part of the 2016 recruiting classs, choosing Bob Diaco’s (then on-the-rise) Huskies over offers from Boise State, Illinois, Navy, and Army. In Hopkins’ redshirt year, UConn floundered as Diaco lost control of the team and eventually lost his job.
Despite the coaching turnover, Hopkins saw decent time in Randy Edsall’s first year, getting a steady stream of carries across the season as he finished with 343 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Hopkins apparently unhappy with short-yardage, goal line role that awaited him this season, will likely transfer.— Neill Ostrout (@NeillOstrout) August 6, 2018
A young, solid back with good size who can finish in the red zone and short-yardage situations seems like a bad loss heading into the start of Year 2 of the Randy Edsall era. Hopkins was the team’s second-leading rusher last season, behind Kevin Mensah, who ran for 561 yards as a true freshman and really came on strong towards the end. He also had 103 receiving yards.
Mensah is now looking like the front-runner for starting duties after clearing up an academic issue which kept him out of the spring game.
Edsall and offensive coordinator John Dunn are looking for an all-around back to fill the feature role in the Husky attack.
“With what we want to do offensively,” Edsall told the Hartford Courant. “If we have that one guy who can do it all on three downs, it’s going to make us more efficient and more effective.”
Another contender for playing time will be Zavier Scott, who came to UConn by way of Germany and redshirted last year. He was a receiver but has moved to running back now and seems to be impressing the coaches; Scott’s getting a decent chunk of the first team reps early in camp.
Others who will compete for playing time include freshmen Khyon Gillespie, a home-run hitter from Hartford, and Dante Black, a three-star recruit from Snellville, Georgia. Another contender, redshirt junior Donevin O’Reilly, a walk-on from Glastonbury, Conn., had a great spring game, just earned a scholarship, and has also been getting first-team reps.