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Heading into the 2021 season, redshirt junior Kevin Mensah was the proven lead back. With two straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his belt and over 220 carries per year, Mensah seemed to be been heading for another big year in 2021.
But he started to lose favor with his coaches, with hints of issues appearing in some of Randy Edsall’s offseason commentary. Freshman Nate Carter ended up seeing the bulk of the carries by the middle of the season. New head coach Jim Mora is hoping he’s ready to build on a productive freshman campaign.
After Carter, multiple names are in the running for playing time. Running backs coach E.J. Barthel will be holding an open competition throughout camp for primary backup duties and other roles out of the backfield.
2021 - 578 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 19 receptions, 127 yards
In 2021 Mensah saw 21 carries in the 38-28 loss to Holy Cross and limited action after that, before he was eventually supplanted in the pecking order by Carter.
Carter averaged 4.6 yards per carry with two 100-yard rushing performances, against UMass and Vanderbilt, and ended the season with 578 rushing yards. The New York native came to UConn from Bishop Kearney High School in the Rochester area and looks like the Huskies’ lead back going into 2022. He’s also shown he can be a threat out of the backfield, so UConn wouldn’t have to take him off the field on passing downs.
Will Knight - Transfer (Garden City CC)
NOTE: Knight has entered the transfer portal, so may not be with UConn this season after all.
If Carter is the lightning, junior college transfer Will Knight brings the thunder. Standing 5-foot-8 and a beefy 225, Knight hits the hole hard and his tremendous balance and vision will be best utilized in short yardage situations. He led Garden City Community College with 656 rushing yards last year.
The former Delaware Gatorade High School Player of the Year and state record holder for rushing yards in a season started his college career at Old Dominion, redshirting while seeing some action in four games. He played the 2019 season at the University of Delaware, where he rushed for 919 yards and earned Second Team All-CAA honors.
Brian Brewton - Sophomore
2021 - 18 touches, 57 yards
Brian Brewton caught the ball more times than he ran it last year and was not particularly great at moving the ball, but he has the potential to be a playmaker. His frenetic approach to carrying the ball was displayed in all its glory last season against UConn’s toughest opponent. During the opening kick of the game against Clemson, the freshman stumbled, lost sight of the ball for a moment, did a full 360-degree turn, then picked up the rock and ran it back 99 yards for the touchdown.
Brewton has the speed and maneuverability to be used as a pass-catching gadget back. He may have some competition from a couple of wide receivers for parts of his role, but the Miami native brings a unique element to the Huskies out of the backfield.
Devontae Houston - Sophomore
2021 - 15 touches, 112 yards from scrimmage
Like Brewton, Devontae Houston is a sophomore return specialist who logged more receptions than rushes in 2021 but may have a bright future in Storrs. The Alabama native also contributed on special teams last year, making 6 tackles.
Robert Burns - Graduate Student
2021: 12 carries, 45 yards
Robert Burns brings experience and leadership to the backfield. He had 45 carries in his last two years at Miami, playing mostly on special teams when he graduated in 2020. Last year at UConn he played in 10 games but rarely carried the ball.
PODCAST - Key Roster Changes
In the latest episode of our podcast, we go through UConn football’s outgoing transfers, players lost to graduation, and took a look at the incoming transfer class. The Huskies definitely lost a bunch of key contributors, but are also addressing key needs via the portal.
We also played a fun game where Tucker gave Aman and Luke blind resume tests in order to form a brand new football conference for UConn to play in. The results are a bit overwhelming—we regret to inform you that Rutgers somehow made it in—but we ended up putting a pretty decent group together.