Long-awaited return: After missing 2 years of action, Kensey finally joins forces with Dooley


Looking at the preseason game roster for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff football team, it’s easy to see how Brandon Kensey became a forgotten man, just for a short while.

Even with spring drills at UAPB under his belt, his name somehow was left off the roster. But that wasn’t the first time he went unnoticed as a Golden Lion.

Much had been made about the Lions landing transfers Brandon Duncan (quarterback) and Lawrence Henderson (defensive lineman) for spring drills. But very little, if anything, was known to Lions fans about Kensey when he first joined.

Offensive coordinator Eric Dooley, however, has known plenty about Kensey. He recruited the Baton Rouge (La.) McKinley High standout right in his own backyard while serving as an assistant coach at Southern.

“I always thought he fit into the scheme of what we were doing,” Dooley said. “So I stayed after him. When he went to (Louisiana), … I guess we built a good relationship from a recruiting process. When he decided to leave, it actually paid off. He looked me up and I had come here, so his old high school coach gave me a call, and I didn’t have to second-guess that.”

For Kensey, it’s been a long road toward actually joining forces with Dooley, let alone playing football again.

“He was always a good coach,” Kensey said of Dooley. “He had a reputation. My receiver coach in high school was taught drills by him, so it was like I was already coached by him.”

Kensey said he passed on Southern because he was wanted as a cornerback instead of receiver. After making two catches for 13 yards his 2010 freshman season at Sun Belt Conference staple Louisiana (aka Louisiana-Lafayette), he injured his anterior cruciate ligament the following spring and missed the 2011 campaign.

He tried to transfer to UAPB in time for the fall of 2012, but “things happened too late with paperwork and stuff” and he was not cleared to participate. So, back in Baton Rouge, he attended classes at Southern during the semester and enrolled at UAPB in January.

“It was crazy being away from ball for so long. With the timeout, I became rusty and stuff.”

Dooley said the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Kensey took all of spring drills to shake off the rust. He capped off the spring with two receptions for 38 yards in April’s spring game.

Now, he’s working on the second string as a versatile wideout/slot receiver with an outside chance of making the first string. UAPB assistant head coach and receivers mentor Craig Raye said Kensey and sophomore Joel Porchia are competing for first-string snaps at the slot while Cody Swain — who played with Kensey at McKinley — nurses a deep bruise to the hip sustained in Friday’s scrimmage. Swain, who moved into the first string with sixth-year senior Thomas Winters still listed as day-to-day with a knee injury, is expected to return in time for the Aug. 31 season opener at Arkansas State.

“I say, right now, he and Porchia are running neck-and-neck,” Raye said. “… Actually, they complement each other well, and Ben (Anderson, starting quarterback) feels comfortable with either one of them.”

Kensey is making a strong case for considerable playing time. He had four catches for 65 yards in UAPB’s first preseason camp scrimmage Aug. 10 and followed up with two catches for 10 yards in Friday’s scrimmage.

Numbers that don’t seem so small, considering he’s part of a wide receiving corps loaded with experience and three returning starters.

“It feels good. It’s a good system. I like the system,” Kensey said. “We have a great rotation working right now. We’re very talented at the wide receiver position, both inside and outside.”

Raye said Kensey has been a “very pleasant surprise.”

“He’s got the experience we’re looking for,” he said. “He’s a great route runner and (has) pretty decent hands.”

Kensey said he can possibly graduate at the end of this semester. But he plans to return to UAPB if the NCAA awards him a fifth year for his lost 2011 season.

“I’ve been out too long,” he said. “I’ve got to get as much as I can get.”