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UConn football position preview: Running backs

Kevin Mensah and Art Thompkins will spearhead the focal point of the Husky offense.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Last year, David Pindell was the engine behind UConn’s surprisingly not-bad offense. He was doing a little bit of everything despite dealing with an inexperienced wideout corps and often running for his life with multiple defenders breathing down his neck.

He was also UConn’s most prolific rusher, averaging near 7 yards per carry, leading the team in total yards, rushing touchdowns and rushing success rate. Pindell won’t just be sorely missed as a passer for the Huskies, he’ll take a good chunk of UConn’s rushing success with him as well.

The task to fill this hole falls on emerging star Kevin Mensah, who had the first 1000-yard rushing season of his career in 2019, the first by a Husky running back since Lyle McCombs in 2011. We don’t have much information on exactly what offense Frank Giufre wlll run in his first year as offensive coordinator, but all signs point to him pounding the rock. That will make Mensah the focal point behind an experienced offensive line, well-positioned to get over 200 touches for the second-straight year.

The rising junior hasn’t been as efficient as he could be his career, hovering around 4.5 yards per carry in two years, but it’s enough to fit what the Huskies are trying to do this year on the ground, combined with the work he’s put in this offseason.

“[Mensah] looks to have some speed improvement, some strength improvement,” Giufre said in preseason camp. “He’s a little more rocked-up muscle-wise than where he was last year.”

Luckily, Mensah won’t have to shoulder it all alone. Art Thompkins is a fresh arrival in Storrs from Toledo, where he averaged a solid 5.32 yards per carry last year. Thompkins was also a useful pass-catcher for the Rockets, targeted 15 times out of the backfield.

Thompkins, who describes himself as a “shifty guy,” could see himself thrust into the role of third-down/change-of-pace back in his first year at UConn.

“Thompkins and Mensah] are good for each other. They make each other work,” Edsall said on the pair. “I think Art has been very good for Kevin, and I also think Kevin has been good for Art.”

Behind Mensah and Thompkins is a largely unproven bunch. Donevin O’Reilly is recovering from an ACL injury that cut his 2018 season short before it even began, but Randy Edsall did rave about him last preseason. After O’Reilly, redshirt freshman Dante Black could take some snaps, along with two walk-ons. Fellow redshirt freshman Khyon Gillespie is academically ineligible.

The running back position will be an area of strength, as Mensah and Thompkins could prove to be an impressive duo. Given those two proven talents and experienced offensive line, along with inexperience in every other area of the offense, the Huskies’ rushing attack will need to be potent if this team is going to win any games.