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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Preview - Special Teams

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Emmit Carpenter is back, but the search for Ryan Santoso’s replacement as starting punter begins

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will take on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota in a spring game showdown tonight at 6 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, weather permitting. Leading up to the game, we’ll be taking a look at the outlook for each position group.

Key Departure(s): Ryan Santoso and Logan McElfresh
Key Returner(s): Emmit Carpenter, Jacob Herbers, Payton Jordahl, Grant Ryerse, and John Mack
Early Enrollee(s): None

Ryan Santoso, the Gophers’ starting kicker from 2014-15 and their starting punter from 2016-17, is gone. He leaves Minnesota with the fourth-best punt average in program history and a career total of 144 punts, 29 field goals, and 176 point-after attempts.

Punter Logan McElfresh has also graduated.

That leaves a single punter left on the roster: Redshirt junior Jacob Herbers, who has only seen the field up to this point as the holder on field goals and point-after attempts.

Redshirt freshman Grant Ryerse is listed on the roster as a kicker, but I’m fairly certain he can punt, as well. I have to imagine that, if this position was a legitimate concern, the coaching staff would have brought in a punter with their most recent recruiting class. So hopefully head coach P.J. Fleck and co. have faith in either Herbers or Ryerse. Maybe the offense will be good enough that the Gophers won’t require a punter?

On the bright side, redshirt senior Payton Jordahl returns for his fourth year as starting long snapper, so the Gophers have that going for them.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the starting kicker position is all but certain. But redshirt senior Emmit Carpenter did take a bit of a step back last season. As a sophomore, Carpenter was named Big Ten’s Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year after making 22 of 24 field goal attempts. But last season, Carpenter finished 14-of-20 and was named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Regardless, his current 81.8 field goal conversion rate ranks first in program history, with a minimum of 25 attempts.