Kent State reportedly hires Minnesota’s Kenni Burns as next football coach

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

The Kent State football program has reportedly hired Kenni Burns, the associate football coach at the Big Ten’s Minnesota, as its new head coach.

Sources told ESPN the news, and the outlet’s Pete Thamel reported the move Tuesday.

“Burns’ ability to lay out a vision and implement it appealed most to Kent State athletic director Randale Richmond,” according to ESPN’s sources.

The reported move comes three days after former Kent State football coach Sean Lewis confirmed his departure from the program on Twitter.

The fifth-year coach, who led the Flashes to their first bowl win and second conference division title in program history, is now the offensive coordinator at Colorado under Deion Sanders.

Burns, a former running back at Indiana, became Minnesota’s running backs coach in January 2017. He was promoted to assistant coach in March 2019.

During his stint at Minnesota, Burns recruited All-Big Ten Mohamed Ibrahim and Rodney Smith.

Ibrahim is the Gopher’s all-time leading rusher and leading scorer in program history. Smith is the all-time leader in all-purpose yards and the second-leading rusher in career rushing yards.

If he moves to Kent State, Burns will rejoin the Mid-American Conference after his one-year job as running backs coach at Western Michigan, where two of his rushers totaled 900 yards.

Under Burns, the team went 13-1 in 2016 and later reached the Goodyear Cotton Bowl  – its 11th bowl appearance in program history.

Before heading to Western Michigan, Burns was the receivers coach and passing game coordinator for Wyoming in 2014.

In 2010, Burns came to North Dakota State and coached the Bison for four seasons. He spent four years there as a receivers coach and two as a recruiting coordinator.

He began his coaching career at Millersville(PA) University in 2007 as a running backs coach and then spent two seasons as tight end coach at Southern Illinois.

Days – and even hours – after Lewis’ announced departure, redshirt junior starting quarterback Collin Schlee, redshirt junior wide receiver Dante Cephas and junior running back Marquez Cooper entered the transfer portal. All three players made announcements on Twitter.

Schlee, who completed his first year as a starter this season, was selected to All-MAC third team offense. He threw for 2,109 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 492 yards and four touchdowns.

Cephas is Kent State’s third all-time leading receiver with 2,139 career receiving yards in his four collegiate years. He is fourth all-time in receptions for Kent State with 145 and is tied for seventh place in all-time touchdowns.

Cooper is the sixth all-time leading rusher in Kent State history with 2,818 yards in three years with the team. He is tied for fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns with 29 and eighth all-time in rushing attempts.

Jacob Hansen is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].