But bigger names were also expected to leave the Cabinet, with Education Secretary Justine Greening, Business Secretary Greg Clark and the Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom all reported to be vulnerable as the prime minister seeks to assert her authority. The government big hitters have kept their jobs, and only a handful of cabinet ministers have moved or left the government altogether.
After a hard start when her party had to delete a tweet naming the wrong person as its new chairman, May went on to promote more women, black and younger lawmakers to challenge critics who call the Conservatives "male, pale and stale".
He will serve as deputy to the newly-appointed chairman of the Conservative Party, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who will take over from Sir Patrick McLoughlin.
Those thought to be in line for a promotion include health secretary Jeremy Hunt and transport secretary Chris Grayling while junior ministers including Steve Baker and Dominic Raab are expected to be given a boost to the top table, with Baker rumoured to be positioned as a new secretary for no deal.
His replacement was announced on Twitter, only for the tweet to be nearly immediately deleted. "It also allows a new generation of gifted ministers to step up and make life better for people across the whole United Kingdom", the prime minister said.
While viewed as a chance at a fresh start, the reshuffle brings risks of upsetting the delicate balance of eurosceptic and pro-European ministers.
The Justice Secretary David Lidington has been named Minister for the Cabinet Office, and will replace Damian Green as the government's lead minister in Brexit talks with devolved administrations.
He also drew fire after a protester interrupted May's speech to the party conference in October - an address that was also marred by a coughing fit and a collapsing set. However this will only happen if Ministers focus more on policy and delivery, and less so on personalities and rivalries.
Former Tory chairman Grant Shapps, who was accused of trying to oust Mrs May after last June's disastrous election for the Conservatives, told BBC Newsnight: "Clearly, to be blunt, it wasn't a brilliantly executed performance with the reshuffle today".
May has said she intends to stay in office "as long as people want me to serve", but past year saw numerous reports of plots to oust her - and many ministers will have their eye on a future leadership challenge.