UConn hoping to get more from Mensah

Published on Friday, 6 August 2021 18:17

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Kevin Mensah is all over the UConn football team’s record book.

The five touchdowns he scored against UMass in a 2019 game were one shy of the school-record six Walt Trojanowski had against Worcester Tech in 1945. The senior running back has a chance, with another big season, to become the program’s all-time leader in rushing yards.

But the numbers don’t tell the full story of the Worcester native’s career, coach Randy Edsall says.

In fact, Edsall admits he had actually been hoping for more from Mensah, though that has nothing to with his back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

“He hasn’t developed into the type of leader that I would expect him of a guy in his situation. That’s part of the maturity factor,” Edsall said as the Huskies began training camp. “He’s gotten better but he’s still got a ways to go from that standpoint.”

That seems rather harsh for a player who has stood out on the field through a rather rough period in UConn football history - the Huskies did not compete in 2020 for COVID-19 safety concerns, but have won a mere six games in the three seasons since Edsall’s return to the helm - but Mensah admits his coach’s critique is reasonable.

“Yeah, fair. Coach and I, we’re good. We’re good together,” Mensah said. “He knows what’s the best for me, and I’m starting to understand that. I’m starting to listen to him more and just be more patient, more humble.”

It seems Mensah wasn’t always keen to Edsall’s way of thinking. He is, however, coming around.

“I can’t lie, it’s difficult to be a player for him. But if you can get your head on and be focused, it’ll work out for you,” Mensah said.

Mensah equated Edsall’s approach to another veteran New England coach.

“Coach Edsall is almost like coach (Bill) Belichick. Just do your job,” Mensah said of the six-time Super Bowl champion.

After nearly two years of waiting, the Huskies will play their season-opener Aug. 28 against Fresno State (2 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

“We’re just ready to get out there and start hitting,” Mensah said just before the start of camp. “And we’re excited for our first game coming up.”

The 5-foot-9, 202-pound Mensah has already accumulated 2,619 yards on the ground in his Husky career. Only four players have ever run for more at UConn, topped by Donald Brown’s 3,800.

“He is a young man that has been productive here in the program. I think he can still be even a little bit more productive in terms of being better as an all-around running back. He’s proven he can run the ball really well. Now I would hope that this year he’ll be able to take his pass protection, his pass catching to another level,” Edsall said.

That’s fine by Mensah.

“Whatever I can do to help this team get a bowl game,” Mensah said.

Mensah won’t be the only one occupying the UConn backfield this season, of course. Robert Burns, a graduate transfer from Miami, is also likely to see a good deal of playing time.

“Robert Burns is a great addition to our team. He’s awesome,” Mensah said. “It’s like he was always here.”

The two men have rather different playing styles, and could prove a good compliment to each other.

“He’s got great size. He’s like 230 (pounds). He’s definitely bigger than me,” Mensah said of Burns. “He’s a bulldozer.”

Edsall, as he typically does with every position on his team, points out that Mensah should know there is competition for his position this season despite his resume.

“Kevin is going to be challenged by Nate (Carter) and by Robert,” Edsall said. “He can’t get complacent and rest on his past accomplishments to think he’s got the job won.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Friday, 6 August 2021 18:17. Updated: Friday, 6 August 2021 18:19.