2017 Spring Preview: Special Teams
April 4, 2017

The difference between a good team and a great team can often be special teams. The unsung heroes who snap, kick and punt can make a huge difference between winning and losing. Minnesota has been fortunate to have an abundance of elite special teamers on its roster in recent years, many of whom return this season under the guidance of special teams coordinator Rob Wenger.

Minnesota has three kickers on its spring roster, led by reigning Big Ten Kicker of the Year Emmit Carpenter. The Green Bay, Wis., native made 22-of-24 field goals (91.6%) last season as he became the first Gopher to ever be honored as the Big Ten’s best. He was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and scored 109 points, which tied Dan Nystrom (109 points in 2000) for most all-time by a Minnesota kicker. His 109 points also ranked tied for second all-time with Nystrom for any Gopher behind Gary Russell (114 points in 2005). Carpenter made his first nine field goals (tied for sixth longest streak in school history) to start the year and ended the season with 12 consecutive made field goals (fourth longest streak in school history). He was a perfect 10-of-10 on field goals from 40 yards or greater and was 8-of-8 from 40-49 yards and 2-of-2 from 50-plus yards. He was also named Academic All-Big Ten and notched 38 touchbacks on 76 kickoffs.

Justin Juenemann will be a fifth-year senior in the fall and is from Phillipsburg, Kan. The sport management major has not seen any game action at Minnesota but was an All-State First Team honoree in 2012 as senior at Phillipsburg High School. He ended his high school career by making 80 percent of his field goal attempts between 40 and 50 yards.

John Mack is Minnesota’s third kicker on the spring roster and redshirted last season, his first as a Gopher. He attended Arrowhead High School in Hartland, Wis., and helped lead his team to a 12-2 record during his senior season. He was named Associated Press All-State and Wisconsin Football Coaches Association First Team during his final season.

Like kickers, Minnesota has three punters on its spring roster and is led by Ryan Santoso, who moved from kicker to punter prior to the 2016 season. Santoso, who was named Academic All-Big Ten last year, punted 77 times and averaged 40.9 yards. He placed 29 punts inside the 20 and 13 of his punts were greater than 50 yards. His career long of 60 yards was at Maryland. Santoso’s career average of 40.8 yards ranks seventh all-time in school history.

Logan McElfresh will be a junior in the fall. The Brainerd, Minn., native redshirted in 2014, but did not see any action in 2015 or 2016. As a senior at Brainerd High School, he helped lead Warriors to a 12-1 record and a spot in the 5A state championship game. He served as the team's punter and started at tight end, while also playing running back and backup quarterback. McElfresh averaged 34.4 yards punting as he was named honorable mention All-Section and All-Conference. His longest punt in high school traveled 73 yards.

Jacob Herbers is a left-footed punter from Battle Creek, Mich., who can cause problems for returners. Herbers has not punted yet in a game for Minnesota, but he did serve as Minnesota’s holder last season. The Academic All-Big Ten player executed holds on 24 field goal attempts and 44 point-after tries for the Maroon and Gold last season and played a big role in Carpenter’s kicking success. He is sure to be on the short list in the upcoming season for the Peter Mortell Holder of the Year award.

Kickers and punters can only do their job at a high level is they have an efficient long snapper and Minnesota is blessed with two of them. Leading the way is soon-to-be junior Payton Jordahl. The Academic All-Big Ten honoree from Perham, Minn., has been successful on all 272 of his career snap attempts (152 punt, 75 point after attempts and 45 field goals). Last year, he was flawless on all 145 attempts (77 punts, 44 PATs and 24 FGs) and also made three tackles on special teams.

Trey Hansen redshirted in 2015 and did not play in 2016 for Minnesota. The Cedar Falls, Iowa, native played his first two years of high school football at Becker High School in Minnesota before his family moved to Iowa where he completed his career at Cedar Falls High School. A move from Minnesota to Iowa couldn’t force Hansen to give up long-snapping, as he was a proficient snapper for all four years of his prep career. At Cedar Falls, he also played safety and quarterback.
 

 

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