Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 14, 2016

In the latest of my stories examining the key departures from each football team, I take a look at Minnesota. Under new coach Tracy Claeys, who took over last year after Jerry Kill abruptly retired due to health concerns, the program is on solid footing with a bowl appearance in each of the last four seasons.

The staff has been altered with a new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and offensive line coach. Still, there is momentum coming off a bowl win that capped a disappointing 6-7 season.

Claeys has talent to work with in players like QB Mitch Leidner, RBs Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith, WR Drew Wolitarsky, TE Brandon Lingen and OTs Ben Lauer and Jonah Pirsig back on offense. The defense will have back LB Cody Poock, CB Jalen Myrick, DE Hendrick Ekpe and DT Steven Richardson, among others. K Ryan Santoso also is back.

But holes must be filled, too. DT Scott Ekpe, DE Thieren Cockran and S Antonio Johnson are gone on defense. The offense loses three linemen, including G Josh Campion.

[ MORE: Get all of Tom Dienhart's players to replace posts ]

Here is a look at the top five players for Minnesota to replace from 2015.

CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun. The emotional leader of the defense, he was named third-team All-Big Ten by the media and was an honorable mention selection by the coaches. Boddy-Calhoun was a playmaking corner with big-play potential, picking off four passes and returning one of a TD. He also broke up six passes.


LB De'Vondre Campbell. A tall, athletic linebacker who could cover the field and make plays, Campbell was like a ptyedactyl. He could rush the passer, stop the run and drop into coverage. He finished third on the team with 92 tackles, including six-and-a-half tackles-for-loss with a team-high four sacks. Campbell also broke up three passes to go along with an interception and forced fumble.


WR KJ Maye. Minnesota will miss the big-play ability of Maye, who was a consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. He was third in the Big Ten in receptions last year with 73 for 773 yards and five TDs. His 73 receptions rank second all-time (most ever for a senior) in a single-season in school annals. And Maye had 43 receptions in 2015 that resulted in a first down or touchdown and 23 of those receptions came on either third of fourth down.


P Peter Mortell. The team?s punter the last three seasons, Mortell booted the ball 203 times for 8,758 yards. And his career average of 44.0 yards ranks first in team history. He had 57 career punts that traveled 50 yards or more and six punts that went at least 60 yards, placing 76 career punts inside the 20-yard line. He was named the 2014 Big Ten Punter of the Year and earned All-Big Ten First-Team recognition from the coaches and media in 2015. Mortell was consensus third-team All-Big Ten last season, ranking third in the league with a 43.4-yard average.


CB Eric Murray. He was the club?s lock-down corner who opponents didn't often target, as only 12 percent of throws went his way. Murray was tabbed third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media and was named the team?s top defensive player and defensive back of the year. Murray made 66 tackles (47 solo), including four tackles for loss with a sack and a team-high seven passes broken up.