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Gophers football avoids big departures before NCAA transfer portal deadline

The NCAA set Sunday as the deadline for players to leave their current school and still maintain eligibility at their new destination next season

NCAA Football: Guaranteed Rate Bowl-Minnesota at West Virginia
Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Brock Annexstad (81) scores on a fake extra point against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first half of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Dec. 28, 2021, at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports
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The Minnesota Golden Gophers football program didn’t suffer any significant departures before the NCAA transfer portal deadline last weekend.

Minnesota had nickel back Sol Brown, punt returner/receiver Brock Annexstad, receiver Jonathan Mann, linebacker Ben Wileman and punter Daniel Sparks enter the portal before the NCAA cutoff. The most substantial player was Annexstad, its primary punt returner in 2021.

The NCAA set Sunday as the deadline for players to leave their current school and still maintain eligibility at their new destination next season.

After spring ball ended with Saturday’s game, Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said: “Hopefully we keep everybody here.” While that didn’t pan out, Minnesota did avoid losing another impact player similar to when Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving departed amid spring practices on April 8. The tailback from Illinois announced Sunday he will join the Oregon Ducks.

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Annexstad, a former walk-on from Norseland, Minn., was awarded a scholarship in 2018 and played in 21 games. He had nine returns for 71 yards last season. His brother, quarterback Zack Annexstad, transferred from Minnesota to Illinois State after the 2021 season.

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Brown, of Largo, Fla., played in eight total games across three seasons with Minnesota. He played in the spring game Saturday, but even with longtime nickel back Justus Harris out of eligibility, Brown didn’t project into Minnesota's two-deep depth chart going into the 2022 season.

Mann, a Rosemount High School alum, did not play in his two seasons at Minnesota. Wileman, of Edgerton, Wis., did not see the field in his two years at Minnesota. Sparks, a transfer from Louisiana-Monroe, did not play in his one season at Minnesota in 2021; he was behind incumbent starter Mark Crawford.

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Former Gophers offensive lineman Conner Olson, who set the Big Ten record for career starts with 58 from 2017-21, will enroll in the U of M Medical School in August. The Monticello, Minn., native will spend his first two years at Minnesota Duluth, followed by two years at the Twin Cities campus. … Former Gophers receiver Doug Emilien announced Monday he is transferring to Kansas, where he will join ex-U running back Ky Thomas. Emilien, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; he played in two games at Minnesota in 2021.

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