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Sources: Minnesota to play Michigan without kicker, punter and several other starters

Pete Thamel
·1-min read

The University of Minnesota will be severely short-handed for its game with No. 18 Michigan on Saturday night, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Minnesota starting kicker Michael Lantz, punter Mark Crawford and kickoff specialist Dragan Kesich will be unavailable for the game against Michigan, sources told Yahoo Sports, putting the unit’s special teams at a significant disadvantage.

No. 21 Minnesota will also be missing multiple key position players. The starting right side of Minnesota’s offensive line — tackle Daniel Faalele and guard Curtis Dunlap. Jr. — will not be available. Starting linebacker Braelen Oliver and reserve defensive back Phillip Howard will also be unavailable.

Faalele is a 6-foot-9, 400-pound mauler who made up a key fulcrum of a Gophers offensive line that returned all five starters this year. Dunlap started 12 games for the Gophers last season. Faalele earned honorable mention all-Big Ten for his work at right tackle.

The special teams could end up being an adventure for the Gophers, as losing that many specialists for this caliber of a game could inherently portend issues. It could also impact how the game is called if the replacements don’t establish their ability to perform early in the game. Backup kicker Brock Walker is expected to handle kicks, as he had three field goals and six PATs last year. He also kicked off six times.

Graduate transfer Matt Stephenson, who served as Middle Tennessee’s primary holder the past two years, is expected to handle punts. He’s punted 16 times in his career.

Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck during the second half of the Outback Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck during the second half of the Outback Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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