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Athlon Sports announced today that it has named eight University of Minnesota football players to its Big Ten Football 2017 All-Conference Team. This preseason announcement is a prediction by the magazine on how players will perform in 2017.
Minnesota’s lone first-team selection was kicker Emmit Carpenter who was named the Big Ten’s Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year last season after making 22-of-24 field goals.
Running back Rodney Smith, defensive tackle Steven Richardson and punter Ryan Santoso were placed on the second team. Smith established himself as one of the best backs in the nation last season when he rushed 240 times for 1,158 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also led Minnesota with 1,609 all-purpose yards.
Richardson is a force on the defensive line who notched 31 tackles last season, which included seven sacks and a team-leading 11 tackles for loss.
Santoso, who kicked for the Gophers from 2014-15, excelled in his first season as a punter in 2016. He averaged 40.8 yards on 78 punts and placed 29 punts inside the 20. His career long of 60 yards came at Maryland.
Minnesota had four players named to the fourth team in offensive lineman Garrison Wright, linebacker Jonathan Celestin, defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. and punt returner Antonio Shenault.
Wright started all 13 games last season in his first year as a Gopher. The Kansas native will be a senior in 2017 and should help anchor a line last year that blocked for an offense that rushed for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The hard-hitting Celestin played in 13 games last year and started 10. He was second on the team with 80 tackles and made seven tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks and broke up four passes.
Winfield transitioned from high school to college just fine. He played in 12 games as a freshman and started nine. Winfield totaled 52 tackles, broke up three passes, recovered one fumble and returned his lone interception 82 yards for a touchdown.
Shenault, who saw extended time on defense in the secondary last season, was named to the fourth team as a punt returner. Last season he returned five punts for 32 yards.
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