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Depth wearing thin at running back for UConn football

Storrs — For the fourth time since early August, the UConn football team has lost a running back.

The latest casualty is redshirt freshman Zavier Scott, who'll undergo season-ending knee surgery on Friday. He's expected to be out until next August.

Scott, the primary backup to starter Kevin Mensah, injured his PCL and MCL in Saturday's loss to SMU. He's been involved in the passing and running game, leading the team with 33 receptions for 228 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 210 yards on 34 carries.

"He should be good to go come August," coach Randy Edsall said. "That's unfortunate for him but I know he'll attack the rehab vigorously and do everything that he can to come back stronger and better than what he was before."

Scott joins redshirt junior Donevin O'Reilly and freshman Khyon Gillespie, who both suffered season-ending knee ACL injuries, on the sideline. O'Reilly was injured during the preseason in August and Gillespie was injured in the Syracuse game on Sept. 22.

Nate Hopkins, UConn's second leading rusher last season, left the team in early August.

"Fortunately, we do have some depth there," Edsall said. "That's just one of those things where our injuries that have come this year have been at that position. I don't think there's any rhyme or reason to it why they've occurred with that position.

"... I don't think we've missed a beat from the standpoint how Kevin has played and what Zavier is doing. Now what has to happen is Dante (Black) and Dom (Mancion) have to step up and take that role."

Next man up is 5-foot-10, 200-pound freshman Dante Black, who's yet to play this season. Black is listed as the backup for Saturday night's American Athletic Conference game at East Carolina. Walkon Dominico Mancion, who saw action on special teams vs. SMU, is another option.

Mensah has been impressed with his Black's practice play.

"He's a really good player," Mensah said Tuesday. "He's quick and knows how to move. He's really smart and he knows the offense. ... He's probably in there right now getting extra work. He's so bought into this. I'm really excited about for what he can do in the future."

Edsall points out that UConn has benefited from the new NCAA rule that allows freshmen to play up to four games and still maintain their eligibility before the red-shirt route.

"If this was the old rule, he would lose a year of eligibility," Edsall said of Black. "This is what the intent of the (new) rule is for and should be for from an injury standpoint so that doesn't happen especially later in the season."

Even with the numerous injuries in the backfield, the Huskies have mounted a productive running game thanks to the dynamic duo of Mensah and senior quarterback David Pindell.

Pindell already has set the program single-season record for quarterback rushing yards. He's the top rusher at his position in the country this season with 1,115 yards.

Mensah is enjoying a breakout season. He has a great chance to join Pindell in the 1,000-yard club, needing 140 in the last two games. He's averaging 86 yards per game and totaled a career-best 860 yards overall. He also has scored six touchdowns.

The last time two Huskies rushed for 1,000 yards in a season — Andre Dixon (1,093) and Jordan Todman (1,188) in 2009.

The more repetitions Mensah gets, the better feel he has for the game, according to Edsall.

"Kevin is an extremely hard worker and he's an extremely prideful young man," Edsall said. "He wants to do well. He wants to be good as he can be in everything he does. We see the same thing with him academically.

"I'm just really pleased with the growth and development that he's shown. And I know he will continue to show. He's a humble young man and he learns well from his mistakes."

UConn (1-9, 0-6) will attempt to break a six-game losing streak on Saturday. East Carolina (2-7, 0-6) also is searching for its first conference win this season.

g.keefe@theday.com

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