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Minnesota Football All-Decade Team: Defense and Special Teams

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Our final selections from another decade of Gopher Football

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Rutgers at Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you are among the handful of readers who have been following along as we unveil our Minnesota Golden Gophers All-Decade Team for the 2010s, we finish up with the linebackers, defensive backs, and specialists. If you’ve wandered in off the street, you can read Part 1 (offensive skill positions) and Part 2 (offensive and defensive line) to catch up.


Linebacker

Notable Names: Gary Tinsley (2010-11), Keanon Cooper (2010-12), Mike Rallis (2010-12), Aaron Hill (2010-13), Damien Wilson (2013-14), De’Vondre Campbell (2013-15), Nick Rallis (2013-16), Jack Lynn (2013-16), Jonathan Celestin (2014-17), Cody Poock (2015-17), Julian Huff (2015-18), Blake Cashman (2015-18), Thomas Barber (2016-2019), Kamal Martin (2016-19)

TDG Staff Selections: Blake Cashman, Damien Wilson, and De’Vondre Campbell

Cashman was a former walk-on who developed into one of the Gophers’ best linebackers of the decade, earning All-Big Ten recognition as a senior. Wilson was a JUCO recruit who only spent two seasons at Minnesota but made quite the impression in that two-year stretch, anchoring two of the best defenses under then head coach Jerry Kill. Campbell was another JUCO recruit, though he was at Minnesota for three years and never missed a game. Perhaps his most memorable contribution was a pick six against Michigan at the Big House in 2014.

All three were also drafted to the NFL.

“Now this group is fun! I’m going to give my votes to Damien Wilson, De’Vondre Campbell and Blake Cashman. Barber would be my next choice but those first three names stood out to me.” - GopherNation

“You can make serious arguments for about 75% of the players listed. Damien Wilson gets one spot for sure. Campbell showed bursts here but didn’t really explode until he got to the NFL. Celestin wasn’t the best athlete but had incredible leadership and heart. Cashman flashed late and earned his NFL roster spot with a great senior season. Martin if he was 100% healthy may have been one of the best on the list. Barber is just incredibly solid all round and another huge heart/character guy.” - gopherguy05

Others Receiving Votes: Jonathan Celestin and Mike Rallis

“I’ll take and Mike Rallis for the sound reasoning that he’s a wrestler.” - Hipster Gopher


Cornerback

Notable Names: Troy Stoudermire (2010-12), Michael Carter (2010-12), Derrick Wells (2011-14), Briean Boddy-Calhoun (2012-15), Eric Murray (2012-15), Jalen Myrick (2013-16), Coney Durr (2016-Present)

TDG Staff Selections: Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray

When Boddy-Calhoun and Murray were both starters in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the Gophers boasted one of the best cornerback tandems in the Big Ten. This was back when then defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel was working his magic in the Minnesota secondary year in and year out. Murray was a lockdown cornerback in coverage, and Boddy-Calhoun is perhaps best remembered for the game-sealing strip against Nebraska in 2014. Murray never missed a game in his college career, playing in 52 games and finishing with 39 consecutive starts.

Others Receiving Votes: Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire


Safety

Notable Names: Kyle Theret (2010), Brock Vereen (2010-13), Cedric Thompson (2011-14), Kim Royston (2011), Damarius Travis (2012-16), Antonio Johnson (2012-15), Kunle Ayinde (2015-17), Duke McGhee (2015-17), Jacob Huff (2015-18), Antoine Winfield Jr. (2016-Present)

TDG Staff Selections: Antoine Winfield Jr. and (in a tie) Cedric Thompson and Brock Vereen

Antoine Winfield Jr. needs no introduction. He was, of course, a unanimous selection. But our staff was split on who deserved the second spot here. Both Cedric Thompson and Brock Vereen were impact players from the moment they stepped on campus. Thompson played in 46 games and started 32 of them over the span of four seasons, culminating in a breakout senior year that saw him record two interceptions against Purdue. Vereen played in 47 games and started 36 of them in his college career, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior.

And if you’re not following Vereen on Twitter, you’re missing out.

“Brock Vereen and Antoine Winfield Jr get my votes here. Winfield has been truly elite when he has been playing. The two seasons that were cut short by injury were ones where it was pretty clear he was the best player on the defense, then this season was absolutely elite. Vereen had a sneaky good career starting for most of all four seasons and ending his senior season by earning first team All-Big Ten by the coaches.” - GopherNation

“Antoine Winfield Jr at both positions. Vereen to backup.” - Ustreet

“[Fixing Ustreet] Antoine Winfield Jr at both positions. Vereen *on Twitter*.” - Hipster Gopher


Kicker

Notable Names: Eric Ellestad (2010), Jordan Wettstein (2011-12), Chris Hawthorne (2013), Ryan Santoso (2014-15), Emmit Carpenter (2016-18)

TDG Staff Selection (Unanimous): Emmit Carpenter

Carpenter had big shoes to fill, taking over for Ryan Santoso (who was assuming punting duties) as a redshirt sophomore. But he was up to the task, earning the Big Ten’s Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year award in his first season as starting kicker and being named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. In his career, Carpenter was 53-of-67 on field goals and 117-of-118 on point after attempts. His 79.1% field goal conversion rate ranks first in school history. He ended his career with 80 consecutive PATs (second most of all-time) and finished career with 276 total points, which ranks him second all-time in school history among kickers and all players.

“It’s Carp. Though Santoso almost gets the automatic nod for this alone.” - gopherguy05


Punter

Notable Names: Dan Orseske (2010-11), Christan Eldred (2012), Peter Mortell (2013-15), Ryan Santoso (2016-17), Jacob Herbers (2018-19)

TDG Staff Selection (Unanimous): Peter Mortell

The man, the myth, the legend: Peter Mortell. He certainly earned his place on the All-Decade Team through on-field contributions as a three-year starter. He punted 203 times for 8,758 yards, good for a career average of 44.0 yards that currently ranks first in program history. In his second season as starting punter, Mortell was named the Eddleman-Fields Big Ten Punter of the Year and earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition from the coaches and media.

But Mortell has also made a name for himself off the field, from raising $25,000 in donations to benefit the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital to creating the now annual Holder of the Year Award (of which he was the first recipient).

“Peter Mortell deserves his own category but was also the best punter (and holder) of the decade.” - GopherNation

“Pete’s the man!” - mowe0018