Kent State to Hire Gophers’ Kenni Burns as Next Head Coach

Photo: AJ Barrett - University of Minnesota

Kenni Burns has been the running backs’ coach of PJ Fleck’s staff since his final season at Western Michigan (2016). With the Minnesota Gophers, he’s added “assistant head coach” to his resume and is well known as one of the best in the country at what he does.

Now, it looks like his loyalty to Fleck and the hard work he’s put in will pay off. According to Pete Thamel (ESPN), Burns is being targeted as, and is expected to be, the next head coach of respected MAC school, Kent State.

What Kenni Burns brings to Kent State

Kenni Burns is a total package kind of coach. He’s proven to be one of the best in the country at identifying talent, recruiting talent and eventually developing said talent. When Burns first arrived in Dinkytown, he helped Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks reach new heights.

Fleck and Burns brought Mohamad Ibrahim with them to Minnesota, after he originally committed to Western Michigan, then helped him develop into the most prolific running back in Gopher history. And let’s not forget about his recruiting hits from 2019 and 2021.

In those cycles, Burns helped convince two 4-star talents, in Ky Thomas (2019 Gatorade Player of the Year in Kansas) and Mar’Keise Irving, to leave their midwestern states and head north to Dinkytown. Both youngsters had monster 2021 seasons, after Ibrahim was lost to the season with a calf injury and both were swiped in the transfer portal by homesickness (Kansas – Thomas) and big time NIL cash (Oregon – Irving).

Coaching Resume

This isn’t the first time that Kenni Burns has been courted by smaller schools as their next head coach. He turned the Eastern Illinois job down back in 2018. Here is the rest of his coaching experience, according to

Coaching Experience
  • 2019-22: Minnesota – Running Backs / Assistant Head Coach¬†
  • 2017-18: Minnesota – Running Backs¬†
  • 2016: Western Michigan – Running Backs
  • 2014: Wyoming – Receivers
  • 2010-13: North Dakota State – Receivers
  • 2008-09: Southern Illinois – Tight Ends
  • 2007: Millersville (Pa.) – Running Backs
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