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Minnesota Golden Gophers 2014 position breakdown: Specialists

Head coach Jerry Kill has been hands on with the specialists since taking over prior to the 2010 season.
Head coach Jerry Kill has been hands on with the specialists since taking over prior to the 2010 season.Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Head coach Jerry Kill has been hands on with the Minnesota Golden Gophers special teams units. He has personally overseen the kickers, punters and long snappers during practices.

Kill’s hands on approach has led to better punting, including Peter Mortell’s solid performance last season, and more consistent kicking.

Mortell cemented his place at the top of the depth chart among punters by posting the third best average - second among returning punters - last season. He will also serve as the holder for the kicker on field goal and extra point situations. Mortell will be backed up by senior Christian Eldred and true freshman Logan McElfresh. Barring an injury, neither is likely to get any action this season.

The kicking competition to replace graduated senior Chris Hawthorne is a good battle between redshirt freshmen Ryan Santoso and Andrew Harte. Santoso is a scholarship player while Harte is a walk-on. It appears Santoso has the edge. By all accounts, he has been more consistent on long field goals. The loser of the battle will be the backup ahead of redshirt freshman Justin Juenemann and true freshman Emmit Carpenter.

The long snapper position is a long overlooked position, but it is an integral part of the kicking game. An imperfect snap can throw the whole process out of sync. Redshirt senior Dave Ramlet is likely to get the first crack at the job. He spent the last couple seasons backing up graduated senior Jake Filkins. Also figuring into the mix are true freshman Payton Jordahl and redshirt junior Jared Hartman.

Projected Depth Chart

First Team - Kicker 28 Ryan Santoso, RS FR, Pace, Fla. (Pace High School); 37 Peter Mortell, RS JR, Green Bay, Wisc. (Notre Dame Academy); 96 Dave Ramlet, RS SR, Appleton, Wisc. (Xavier High School)

Second Team - Kicker 33 Andrew Harte, RS FR, Downers Grove, Ill. (Monti Catholic High School); 41 Christian Eldred, SR, Melbourne, Australia (Monash University); 25 Payton Jordahl, FR, Perham, Minn. (Perham High School)

Third Team - Kicker 42 Justin Juenemann, RS FR, Phillipsburg, Kan. (Phillipsburg High School); 34 Logan McElfresh, FR, Brainerd, Minn. (Brainerd High School); 40 Jared Hartman, RS JR, Falcon Heights, Minn. (Cretin-Derham Hall High School)

Fourth Team - Kicker 38 Emmit Carpenter, FR, Green Bay, Wisc. (Ashwaubenon High School)

The Rest of the Division

Illinois Fighting Illini - The Illini return both starting kicker Taylor Zalewski and punter Justin DuVernois.

Iowa Hawkeyes - The Hawkeyes return punter Connor Kornbrath, but need to find a new kicker.

Nebraska Cornhuskers - The Cornhuskers return punter Sam Foltz, but need to find a new kicker.

Northwestern Wildcats - The Wildcats need to replace both their punter and kicker. Punter Chris Gradone earned playing time last season as a backup.

Purdue Boilermakers - The Boilermakers return kicker Paul Griggs, but need to find a new punter.

Wisconsin Badgers - The Badgers return both kicker Jack Russell and punter Drew Meyer.