Big Ten: Fred Smith

Michigan State receiver Donald Spencer has been granted his release from the team.

Spencer posted on his Twitter page that he'll be transferring to FCS Indiana State. He'll be eligible to play right away for the Sycamores, who open their season Sept. 3 at Penn State.

A heralded high school recruit, Spencer played mostly on special teams as a freshman in 2010 and had two receptions. He's the third Michigan State player to leave the team this month, joining receiver Fred Smith and incoming safety recruit Onaje Miller.

Michigan State's depth at receiver could have contributed to the departures of both Spencer and Smith, who came to East Lansing with plenty of hype but struggled to move up the depth chart.

Big Ten lunchtime links

June, 13, 2011
Happy Luke Fickell Day:
There's too much going on today for a mailblog, so I'll get to it Wednesday morning. Here are a few Big Ten notes from a pretty busy news day.

  • It's amazing to think a running back who suffered a second ACL injury to his right knee could be ready for the 2010 season, but Ralph Bolden might defy the odds. Purdue head coach Danny Hope said today that Bolden will be re-evaluated and likely will have surgery in the coming weeks. Hope also said he has had players recover from ACL injuries in the spring to be ready for the fall. So stay turned.
  • Not surprisingly, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez didn't address the NCAA's examination of West Virginia's program under his watch during his news conference this afternoon. Michigan hasn't been commenting on any NCAA investigation issues this spring, and a team official cut off a question asked to Rodriguez about the West Virginia situation.
  • Michigan State has reinstated wide receiver Fred Smith, who recently served four days in jail for his role in the November residence hall assault. Head coach Mark Dantonio said Smith is back practicing with the team. Nose tackle Oren Wilson won't be returning, as Dantonio said the junior is exploring transfer options. Wilson's lawyer told reporters last month that his client wanted to return to Michigan State and hoped to talk with Dantonio, but the door has been closed there. This is the right call by Michigan State, as Wilson, sentenced to 21 days in jail for his role in the assault, didn't come forward about his involvement and participated in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2.
  • Penn State head coach Joe Paterno spent most of his time talking about expansion today, but I did sneak in a question about the team's progress this spring. Needless to say, Paterno isn't happy. "We’re not a very good football team right now," he said. "The quarterbacks are very average, but they’re young, and hopefully over a period of time they’ll get better. We’re just very, very average right now. We’re not tough. Our kicking game is terrible." Is it just a bunch of young players or older guys not making progress? "It’s a combination," Paterno said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us. That doesn’t mean we can’t get it done, but we have to be realistic and stop dreaming that the good Lord is going to come down and bless us. We’ve got to go to work." You've got to love Paterno's honesty.
  • Rodriguez continues to challenge quarterback Tate Forcier, both on the practice field and, in a way, with his comments to the media. "Tate started off really well last year, he had some ups and downs and he needed to get better," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "Competition is helping in that regard. Tate knows he can’t be average and expect to be the starting quarterback." The good news? Rodriguez said all three quarterbacks -- Forcier, Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner -- had their best performances in Saturday's scrimmage.
  • Dantonio said the 3-4 defense will be a larger part of the plan this fall, though the team is still "experimenting" right now. The alignment should allow Michigan State to be more flexible with star Greg Jones and maximize the depth at the linebacker position.
  • It sounds more and more like Adam Weber is taking control of Minnesota's quarterback competition. Head coach Tim Brewster said Weber has had his best spring and "understood the urgency of a fifth-year senior." Things are a little closer at Illinois, where all three candidates have had the upper hand at times, coach Ron Zook said. The team's eventual starter will be the player who best learns from his mistakes.
Michigan State nose tackle Oren Wilson will serve 21 days in jail for his involvement in the November residence hall assault.

Wilson's sentence Wednesday wasn't a major surprise, as he had pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery after admitting to kicking one person and punching another in the Nov. 22 incident. He also received 12 months probation and community service.

All 11 sentences have now been handed out to the Michigan State players who pleaded guilty to assault. Four have received jail time -- Glenn Winston (180 days), Roderick Jenrette (90 days), Wilson and Fred Smith (five days) -- while the others got probation and community service. Four players charged were reinstated last week for spring practice, while five are seeking transfers and both Winston and Jenrette were dismissed Nov. 24.

The really interesting news coming out of Wilson's sentencing hearing were the statements made by Wilson's lawyer, Andrew Abood, to reporters. Abood said that Wilson wants to return to the team and would soon reach out to Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio.

Last week, Dantonio said Wilson was in the process of seeking a transfer.
“Oren’s first choice would be to stay at Michigan State and be on the football team in fall,” Abood said. “He’s the type of guy who would be wanted in the trenches when MSU plays Michigan. He should be back on the football team.”

"My understanding -- and I haven’t heard this from inside Duffy Daugherty [football offices] -- is that everybody involved except [Glenn] Winston and [Roderick] Jenrette -- would have a chance to be reinstated to the team," Abood said. "This is Oren’s first mistake, and I believe he’s a person of character. Hopefully, he will get another chance."

Dantonio now faces an important decision. He has said he will continue to give players second chances, even after the embarrassing residence hall mess. On the other hand, he doesn't want to come off too soft on discipline, a criticism that some have already raised.

Wilson's case is unique because his involvement in the assault wasn't known until mid January, and unlike 13 other players present at the residence hall, Wilson participated in the Alamo Bowl. The other 13 players had been suspended before the bowl game.

Translation: Wilson hid his involvement from Dantonio and the coaching staff until authorities identified him. That's a pretty major betrayal of trust, as there's no way Dantonio would have allowed Wilson to play in the Alamo Bowl had he known of Wilson's role at Rather Hall.

Of all the players not returning to MSU, Wilson was arguably the most valuable. He has started 26 games at nose tackle and would anchor a young defensive line in 2010.

But if Dantonio reinstates the senior, he should expect to take a lot of heat from the outside. And if Wilson does get another chance, he likely would face a multiple-game suspension to begin the 2010 season. Anything less would really look soft of MSU's part.
Spring practice is a welcome sight for the Spartans, who took their lumps both on and off the field in 2009. The residence hall mess is coming to a conclusion, as four players convicted of assault have been reinstated, while the status of another, wide receiver Fred Smith, remains unclear as his legal process continues. Michigan State returns 13 players with starting experience on both sides of the ball but must fill holes on both lines and improve the entire defense after a disappointing performance in 2009.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Matt Cashore/US PresswireCoach Mark Dantonio has had to guide his Spartans through some adversity.
Head coach Mark Dantonio took some time this week to talk about the off-field problems, the spring depth chart and the outlook for practice.

What has it been like the last few months there? How is the mood entering spring practice?

Mark Dantonio: It's been good. Any time you go through adversity, you recollect yourself and you move forward. You move forward with a certain amount of resolve and strength, and that's what we've done. You look at our football season last year, we lost some close games. We were a very young football team, and we transition in that area to move forward. Obviously, we've had the off-the-field incident, but we've moved past that as a football team and we now need to focus on the task at hand. That will build strength. It teaches people lessons.

Was there any need to re-establish trust between you and the players and your staff, or even among the players themselves, after an incident like that?

MD: It's a given that you trust your players as a coach. Sometimes you may be disappointed, but we continually talk about the aspect of honesty and trust, and we hope people are forthcoming. You have to have that. Players have to understand that you as a coach are committed to them and committed to their well-being as people, and they have to trust you. It doesn't mean it's easy. It doesn't mean there aren't consequences or there's not confrontation because this is the world we live in, but they have to trust that you're going to be fair with them, consistent, and that you have their best interest at heart and the team's best interest at heart when you make decisions.

Consequently, it's important on the other side that we trust our players and that they're going to do the very best they can, making the decisions they have to make socially, academically and athletically. You're going to fall down at times, and we have the same problems that society has in a lot of ways, and because we live in a fish bowl a little bit, there's going to be higher consequences, more public scrutiny and things of that nature. But you do always have to believe in your young people. That helps them grow, and that's what we'll do.

Do you lean on your leaders from last year more after what happened and as you get into spring practice, guys like Kirk [Cousins] and Greg [Jones]?

MD: Certainly you lean on your leaders, and as a head coach, I continue to grow with every experience, and our players do the same. We need to continue to gain leadership. Last year, Kirk Cousins was a sophomore captain, sort of thrust into that position. He now feels more at ease with that position of being a leader on the team. Whether he's elected captain or not will be up to our players in the fall, and there are others we're pushing forward into that position of leadership. Greg Jones is doing a nice job.

We've always had what we call a Unity Council, but we've made this Unity Council a bigger tool to work with in our system and our team. We have had seminars on being a college football player at this level, whether it's talking about the situation [in November], or bringing in former players to talk about the value of education versus the NFL, or whether it's talking about law with a leading criminal justice professor. We tried to take an hour and a half every week for the past five weeks [excluding spring break] and work with our players in that area. And we'll continue to try to be proactive. That's what we have to do, and we'll continue to try and do those things.

So you would have a speaker come in every week?

MD: Yes. We talked about the law, talked about our players' rights, talked about consequences. When you make a decision, it's not a quick fix, judiciously. Our players need to understand that. It's not over and done with when you do make a mistake. We all have to understand that. We're just trying to educate and be proactive, and I think it draws our team together. We've got other things in those meetings that served as exercises to try and benefit our group.

Getting to the personnel, how are you approaching the quarterback position going into the spring? Is it still an open situation there, or do you feel comfortable with Kirk?

MD: Kirk Cousins has earned the opportunity to be our starter, with the number of plays that he played last year and the success that he's had. Keith Nichol is an outstanding athlete. He's played quarterback for us, and he should continue to be thought of in that light, somewhat. We need to be able to continue to work him there. But I also think that he can be an outstanding wide receiver, as proven in bowl practice. He's an outstanding athlete, big body, can run, quick change of direction, can jump, is tough, so he needs to get on the football field for us. And I also think that our quarterback situation with Andrew Maxwell, doing the things he did last fall as a redshirt freshman, and then Joe Boisture coming in as a true freshman, gives us the opportunity to move Keith to the wide receiver position.

When you have only two quarterbacks like we did last spring, you don't have that luxury. Now we have four, and we have the luxury to make that move and allow him to work out there 70-80 percent of the time, and then taking limited snaps inside, with the idea that he could always go back. He's a tremendous athlete, and I think he can be a fixture in our offense.

How has Keith handled the move so far?

MD: He's very excited about. He was excited about it for the bowl game, and as coach [Don] Treadwell came in every day, coach Treadwell got more and more excited about the possibilities that Keith gave us because of his ability out there. With 15 practices in the spring and another 29 in the fall, he's going to be very valuable. With two years left, that's the position where he could become [a key contributor].

In Part II of the Q&A (Wednesday): Dantonio talks defense, offensive line
Spring practice is about to get under way at Michigan State, and four players convicted in last year's residence hall assault have been reinstated to the team.

Head coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday that cornerback Chris L. Rucker, offensive linemen J'Michael Deane and wide receivers Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, all of whom received probation and community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault, are back on the team. Wide receivers Donald Spencer and Chris D. Rucker, suspended for being present at the Nov. 22 incident but never charged, also are back for the spring.

Dantonio confirmed that wide receiver Myles White and nose tackle Oren Wilson will transfer. White was sentenced Monday to probation and community service, and Wilson faces sentencing March 31. The status of wide receiver Fred Smith, sentenced Friday to five days in jail plus probation and community service, will be determined when his legal issues are over. Eleven current or former players pleaded guilty in the incident, and six -- White, Wilson, Ashton Leggett, Jamiihr Williams, Glenn Winston and Roderick Jenrette -- are no longer with the program.

I fully expected reinstatement for Cunningham, Dell, Deane and Chris L. Rucker, who had no prior indiscretions. White and Wilson deserved heavier punishment, potentially dismissal from the team, because their involvement in the assault didn't come to light until January. Wilson even played in the Alamo Bowl, a privilege he didn't deserve. But it's all moot now as both players will be transferring.

I spoke with Dantonio moments ago, and while I'll have a two-part Q&A with the coach this afternoon and Wednesday, a few notes and quotes for now.
  • Dantonio, on the off-field problems Michigan State has faced: "You’re going to fall down at times. We have the same problems that society has in a lot of ways, and because we live in a fishbowl a little bit, there's going to be higher consequences, more public scrutiny and things of that nature. But you do always have to believe in your young people. That helps them grow, and that’s what we’ll do."
  • During the winter, Dantonio put a greater emphasis on the team's Unity Council and held 90-minute weekly seminars for players that featured guest speakers, including former players and a criminal justice professor. "We talked about the law, talked about our players’ rights, talked about consequences," Dantonio said. "When you make a decision, it’s not a quick fix judiciously. Our players need to understand that. It’s not over and done with when you do make a mistake. We're just trying to educate and be proactive, and I think it draws our team together."
  • The big personnel news of the day is Keith Nichol's move from quarterback to wide receiver. Nichol remains an option at quarterback, but with greater depth behind Kirk Cousins this spring, he has a better chance to make big contributions at receiver. Nichol played some wideout during the Alamo Bowl but will spend much more time there this spring. Dantonio said Cousins has earned the starter's tag entering the spring after a solid sophomore season. Nichol is listed as both a first-team wide receiver and a second-string quarterback on the team's spring depth chart. "Keith is an outstanding athlete," Dantonio said. "He's played quarterback for us and he should continue to be thought of in that light somewhat. He would always be able to move back in there. ... But I also think that he can be an outstanding wide receiver, as proven in bowl practice. ... He needs to get on the football field for us."
  • Dantonio identified offensive line and kicker as the two most critical areas to develop in spring ball. The Spartans lose three starters on the offensive line, including standout center Joel Nitchman, as well as first-team All-Big Ten kicker Brett Swenson.
  • Some wonderful news about Spartans offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr., who has kept his dream of playing football alive after battling bone cancer. Ray is finally off crutches and able to run and do individual drills. "His bone is healing," Dantonio said. "He hopes to play in the near future, within maybe a year. We'll have to petition for that. We would have room for [Ray on the roster]. That's something the doctors have to decide on. Me, personally, and our entire football staff, are thrilled to have Arthur out there every single day. ... I can look at him now and say there is a possibility [of him playing]." There are plenty of folks rooting for Ray, myself included.
  • Defensive end David Rolf is transferring to be closer to his family. Defensive tackle Cameron Jude's status is unclear as he works through academic and personal issues.
  • Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy doesn't appear on the spring depth chart because he underwent offseason shoulder surgery and will be limited in practice
Here's the saddest thing about Glenn Winston's tumultuous tenure at Michigan State.

If you Google his name and "sentenced" and "six months in jail," you come up with two separate sets of entries.

For the second time in his young life, Winston was sentenced to six months in jail Monday for his role in the November residence hall fight. Winston pleaded guilty last month to two misdemeanors -- conspiracy to commit assault and battery, and assault and battery -- and to violating his parole from a previous assault conviction.

He served four months in jail last summer for his role in an off-campus assault that left Spartans hockey player A.J. Sturges seriously injured. Michigan State reinstated Winston to the team on the same day he was released from jail after serving a reduced sentence.

Eleven current or former Michigan State players have pleaded guilty in the Nov. 22 incident at Rather Hall, which took place following a fraternity (Iota Phi Theta) potluck function. Three players -- Winston, former safety Roderick Jenrette and current wide receiver Fred Smith -- have received jail time and probation. Winston and Jenrette, the two reportedly at the center of the incident, were dismissed from the team Nov. 24. Smith has been indefinitely suspended.

Seven players have received probation and community service, including wide receiver Myles White, who was sentenced Monday. White, by the way, tells The State News that he intends to transfer from Michigan State.

Nose tackle Oren Wilson is the last player waiting for a sentence, which will be handed down March 31. Head coach Mark Dantonio is expected to rule on the players' status after all the legal proceedings have concluded.

I keep thinking back to Dantonio's surprising decision to reinstate Winston in August. I'm not against second chances, and Winston, who comes from a very rough background, absolutely deserved one. But Michigan State took an enormous risk in bringing him back to campus, especially since his actions directly impacted another student-athlete (Sturges). As we now know, the decision totally backfired on Dantonio.

Helping Winston get a fresh start at another school might have been the more prudent choice.

Three days after Winston's reinstatement, Sturges issued a statement to that read in part: "While I hope what happened to me will never happen again, I am afraid the precedent set by this decision will only enable similar incidents in the future. With no formal athletic standards or means to deal with student athletes convicted of a violent crime, this cycle will continue."

Less than four months later, Winston was at the center of a similar incident, another assault involving Michigan State students that left an even larger stain on the football program.

Michigan State has some work to do to remove that stain. Spring practice begins Tuesday.
Five current or former Michigan State players involved in the November residence hall fight learned their fates Friday, and two received jail time.

Former Spartans safety Roderick Jenrette was sentenced to 90 days in jail, while current MSU wide receiver Fred Smith was sentenced to five days behind bars. Smith also received 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.

Two other current players, cornerback Chris L. Rucker and offensive linemen J'Michael Deane, received 12 months probation and 150 hours of community service. Former Spartans defensive end Jamiihr Williams received 18 months probation and 15o hours of community service. Rucker, Deane and Williams all had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery.

Eight of the eleven players who pleaded guilty in the Nov. 22 assault at Rather Hall now have been sentenced, with Jenrette and Smith the first to receive jail time. Former running back Glenn Winston, dismissed from the team with Jenrette on Nov. 24 and reportedly at the center of the incident, will be sentenced Monday and faces up to a year in jail.

Current MSU receiver Myles White also will be sentenced Monday, and current nose tackle Oren Wilson will be sentenced March 31. Seven players involved in the fight remain with the team but indefinitely suspended.

Michigan State starts spring practice Tuesday, and it will be interesting to see how head coach Mark Dantonio handles the suspended players. Team spokesman John Lewandowski released a statement last week saying Dantonio wouldn't make a final ruling until all the court cases are concluded. Wilson's is the last one to wrap up.

I still expect the majority of the seven suspended players to be back with the team. Wilson and White could face the toughest penalties from the team because of the delay in the coaching staff learning of their involvement.

Here's a rundown of the 11 current or former players involved in the Rather Hall fight:
  • WRs B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell: Still on the team but suspended; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service last week.
  • RB Ashton Leggett: Transferred to Illinois State; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service last week.
  • S Roderick Jenrette: Dismissed from the team Nov. 24; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault and misdemeanor assault; sentenced Friday to 90 days in jail; will begin serving sentence in April.
  • WR Fred Smith: Remains with the team but indefinitely suspended; pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault; had misdemeanor assault charge dropped; sentenced Friday to five days in jail, 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.
  • CB Chris L. Rucker and OL J'Michael Deane: Both remain with the team but indefinitely suspended; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced Friday to 12 months probation and 150 hours of community service.
  • DE Jamiihr Williams: Left the team; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced Friday to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.
  • RB Glenn Winston: Dismissed from team Nov. 24; pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault and violating his probation; will be sentenced Monday.
  • WR Myles White: Remains with the team; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault but had conspiracy charge dropped; will be sentenced Monday.
  • NT Oren Wilson: Remains with the team; pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault; had conspiracy charge dropped; will be sentenced March 31.

Two more Spartans players charged

January, 26, 2010
The problems at Michigan State continue as two more football players have been charged with misdemeanor assault and conspiracy in connection with a Nov. 22 incident at an on-campus residence hall.

Junior defensive tackle Oren Wilson and redshirt freshman wide receiver Myles White both face assault and conspiracy charges. Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio on Tuesday indefinitely suspended both players from all football-related activities. Both Wilson and White must turn themselves in for arraignment.

"As with the previously suspended players, their status with the team will be re-evaluated on a case-by-case basis as their legal issues are resolved," Dantonio said in a statement issued through the school's sports information department.

Eleven players now have been charged in the incident, which took place during a fraternity potluck function held the same night of Michigan State's team banquet. Four other players were suspended from the team for being present at the residence hall, though none faces charges.

Wilson started for Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2, while White was suspended for the game for an unrelated incident. Dantonio, through a spokesman, said he didn't know Wilson and White were present at the residence hall until being notified of the forthcoming charges late last week. Though the suspensions were announced Tuesday, the punishments went into effect last week.

Dantonio handed down suspensions or dismissals for all the other players identified as being at the residence hall before the Alamo Bowl. Players were given opportunities to come forward about their involvement in the incident, but both Wilson and White declined to do so. MSU police in early December identified 10 suspects in the assault and were hoping to identify five more. Now we know that all 15 suspects were football players.

Still, it's troubling that more than two months have passed before Spartans coaches knew Wilson and White were involved.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings told the Lansing State Journal: "MSU Police has wonderful investigators and to me, it was never a question of if these two individuals were going to be identified, just a question of when."

Here's the breakdown of what's happening with the 15 players:
  • Running back Glenn Winston and safety Roderick Jenrette, who face charges and had previous legal issues, have been dismissed from the team.
  • Running back Ashton Leggett pleaded guilty Jan. 14 to two counts of misdemeanor assault as part of a plea agreement in which a more serious conspiracy charge against him was dropped. Leggett since has transferred to Illinois State. Defensive end Jamiihr Williams, who also faces charges, will transfer as well.
  • Brynden Trawick and Ishmyl Johnson, who were suspended for being at the residence hall but not charged, are transferring.
  • Five players who face charges -- cornerback Chris L. Rucker, offensive lineman J'Michael Deane and wide receivers, Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham and Fred Smith -- had their pretrial hearings postponed earlier this month. Dantonio allowed them to attend a team meeting several weeks ago, but their ultimate status will be determined after the legal process concludes. Wilson and White both are now in the same boat as these players.
  • Donald Spencer and Chris D. Rucker were suspended but not charged and attended a team meeting earlier this month.

Obviously, this remains a messy situation for Dantonio and Michigan State, which could be without a sizable chunk of the roster when spring practice begins.

MSU reinstates suspended players

January, 13, 2010
Mark Dantonio wanted to put a positive spin on today's season wrap-up news conference, but the Michigan State coach couldn't avoid the elephant in the room.

The recent wave of player suspensions and dismissals remains the top story around Michigan State, though linebacker Greg Jones' return to school is significant as well. Dantonio has reinstated seven players suspended following a Nov. 22 assault at a campus residence hall, five of whom are facing misdemeanor assault and conspiracy charges.

The suspended players who remain at Michigan State were allowed to attend a recent team meeting when the squad assembled following winter break.

"They have been outside of the football facility and everything to do with football for the last six or seven weeks," Dantonio said. "And at this point in time, we are going to welcome them back into that environment for clarity purposes. They are on our football team."

Four suspended players, including two who face charges stemming from the residence hall incident, have transferred from Michigan State. A total of nine players were charged Dec. 10 with misdemeanor conspiracy to commit an assault and battery as well as misdemeanor assault and battery. Two of those players, running back Glenn Winston and safety Roderick Jenrette, have been dismissed from the team.

"We are not doing anything as a team right now," Dantonio said, "but at least to sit in a team meeting room for our initial meeting back, they were welcomed to be in there, and then we will make decisions based on what happens at a later date."

Here's a look at where everyone stands:
  • The following players who face assault and conspiracy charges have been reinstated: cornerback Chris L. Rucker, offensive lineman J’Michael Deane, wide receiver Mark Dell, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, wide receiver Fred Smith.
  • Wide receivers Chris D. Rucker and Donald Spencer, who were suspended for being at the residence hall but never charged, also are back with the team.
  • Running back Ashton Leggett, who was suspended and charged, has transferred to Illinois State. Defensive end Jamiihr Williams, who was suspended and charged, has transferred to Northeast Mississippi Community College.
  • Linebacker Brynden Trawick and nose tackle Ishmyl Johnson, who were present at the residence hall but never charged, also have transferred from Michigan State.
  • Wide receiver Myles White, who was suspended for a situation unrelated to the residence hall assault, also is back with the team.

The players facing charges are scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning for pre-trial hearings. Ingham County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III told the Detroit Free Press that no plea agreement is in place at this time, though that could change.
Here's the latest on the mess at Michigan State, as nine players were charged Wednesday with misdemeanor conspiracy to commit assault and battery as well as assault and battery in connection with a Nov. 22 fight at a campus residence hall.

The conspiracy charges carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail, while the assault charges carry a 93-day maximum sentence.

Charges were filed against the following players: safety Roderick Jenrette, running back Glenn Winston, wide receiver Fred Smith, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, defensive end Jamiihr Williams, wide receiver Mark Dell, running back Ashton Leggett, offensive tackle J'Michael Deane and cornerback Chris L. Rucker.

The investigation is ongoing, and more charges could be filed.

Deane is one of three new suspensions the team announced today. Wide receivers Chris D. Rucker and Donald Spencer are the others.

None of the players will travel with the team to the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2.

I'll have more on this Thursday, especially the involvement of Winston, who has been down this road before.

Tough times for Michigan State, indeed.

A major mess for Michigan State

December, 1, 2009
Michigan State has suspended eight football players in the wake of an alleged assault at a residence hall last month.

Head coach Mark Dantonio announced Tuesday night the following players have been suspended from all team activities: wide receiver Mark Dell, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, wide receiver Fred Smith, running back Ashton Leggett, cornerback Chris L. Rucker, linebacker Brynden Trawick, nose tackle Ishmyl Johnson and defensive end Jamiihr Williams. Last week, Dantonio dismissed running back Glenn Winston and safety Roderick Jenrette for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Michigan State police have confirmed that all 10 players were present during the Nov. 22 assault at Rather Hall. While the school is not officially calling the players suspects, MSU police have identified 10 suspects following interviews with witnesses and victims and a review of on-site video. So you can do the math.

The investigation is ongoing, but police are trying to identify five additional suspects. The police will forward their findings to Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III early next week.

We'll have to wait and see what charges are filed and against whom, but the accounts of the assault, which took place during a potluck function sponsored by the Iota Phi Theta fraternity, don't look promising for Michigan State. The Winston connection is particularly damaging, given his role in an off-campus altercation last year that led to four months served in jail and an immediate return to the roster upon his release. Other football players were involved in the previous altercation.

Of the 10 players dismissed or suspended, six have started games this season. Michigan State's depth for an upcoming bowl game could take a major hit, depending on the length of the suspensions, though that should be the least of Dantonio's worries right now.

The bottom of Michigan State's news release reads: "MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis emphasized he and Dantonio share high expectations and standards for conduct and behavior of student-athletes."

A message left for Hollis on Tuesday night was not immediately returned.

More to come on this story.
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

If you need a cavity filled in the state of Michigan a few years from now, don't be surprised to see Blair White pulling up next to the dentist's chair.

 Cliff Welch/Icon SMI
 Blair White ranks fourth in the Big Ten in receiving yards with 90.7 yards a game.

And rest assured, White has very steady hands. Anyone can see that from watching him catch passes for Michigan State.

The former walk-on emerged midway through the 2008 season and wound up leading the Spartans in both receptions (43) and receiving yards (659). It could have been the end of the line for White, who was admitted to the University of Detroit's School of Dentistry and had a chance to enroll this fall.

But he had one season of eligibility remaining and decided what the heck, might as well stick around. Michigan State is extremely grateful, as White once again has become the team's No. 1 wide receiver.

He ranks fourth in the Big Ten in receiving yards (90.7 ypg), fifth in receptions (6.43 ypg) and third in scoring (5.1 ppg).

"It's a little different than what I had planned," White said. "It's a blessing and I'm very fortunate."

White entered last season not knowing if he'd see the field much, if at all.

He had only three catches his first two seasons and played primarily on special teams. Michigan State seemed fairly set at wide receiver with Mark Dell, Deon Curry, B.J. Cunningham and heralded freshmen Keshawn Martin and Fred Smith. About the only clue White would play a bigger role was his appearance as a co-backup with Chris L. Rucker on the preseason depth chart.

But injuries and other personnel moves -- Rucker eventually moved full-time to cornerback -- opened the door for White.

"I was able to catch some balls for us," he said. "I figured I could go to dental school any time I want, but I can only play football at Michigan State for one more year. I took advantage of that, and I'd like to think that was a wise choice, not passing that up."

Um, yeah.

White not only has become one of the Big Ten's better receivers, earning co-Offensive Player of the Week honors after recording career highs in both receptions (12) and receiving yards (186) to go along with two touchdowns in last Saturday's win against Northwestern. But he's doing it at a school that means a lot to his family.

White is the 15th person in his family to attend Michigan State. The group includes his three younger siblings, his mother, Vicki, an All-American swimmer for the Spartans, and a cousin, Jessica LeFevre, an All-American softball player.

His strong ties to Michigan State could present a problem in the future. See, White has applied to the School of Dentistry at Michigan and might end up in Ann Arbor a year from now.

White gets chided about attending Michigan "all the time," particularly from former Spartans teammate Brian Hoyer and Spartans running backs coach Dan Enos.

"It's definitely still possible," White said. "They're one of the best dental schools in the country, so I'm not just going to throw them off, even though I bleed green."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The games have finally started in the Big Ten, but recruiting season never ends. Like every league, the Big Ten boasts its share of ace recruiters, but only a select few are adept at getting top prospects to say yes.

Here's a look at the Big Ten's top closers in recruiting:

1. Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson -- Johnson is the biggest reason why Penn State always reloads on defense and has elevated its overall recruiting since 2008. He can get pretty much whomever he wants from Maryland, and his commitments include current linebacker Navorro Bowman, former wide receiver Derrick Williams and former defensive end Aaron Maybin, the first pick from the Big Ten in the 2009 NFL draft.

2. Illinois head coach Ron Zook -- He might not always get the best out of his players (read: Saturday's game against Missouri), but Zook always brings in top talent. Illinois' inconsistent history hasn't stopped Zook from landing loads of elite prospects, especially from Chicago and Washington D.C. Losing top assistant Mike Locksley certainly stings, but Zook will continue to get after it on the recruiting trail.

3. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell -- A head coach in the near future, Fickell has helped Ohio State consistently bring in top 5 recruiting classes. He lured top defensive prospects Corey Brown and Dorian Bell in the 2009 class and has landed several current defensive starters, including safety Kurt Coleman and defensive end Thaddeus Gibson. Fickell's youth and energy helps him stand out on a staff of good recruiters.

4. Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez -- Despite a 3-9 season in 2008, Rodriguez still brought in a top 15 recruiting class in February and got off to a quick start for 2010, landing commitments from standout quarterback Devin Gardner and others. Rodriguez's style might not be for everyone, including some of Lloyd Carr's recruits, but he connects with a certain type of player and should have Michigan back near the top of the Big Ten soon.

5. Michigan State running backs coach Dan Enos -- Enos has reestablished Michigan State as a recruiting force in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs, plucking prospects like Edwin Baker and Fred Smith from the Motown area. Mark Dantonio wants to build his program primarily with local and regional talent, and Enos is leading the charge in Michigan's largest city.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

If you haven't done it already, check out our signing day primer. As part of the story, I was asked to identify several Big Ten recruiting superlatives, including the league's best recruiter.

Former Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley owned the title before he left to become New Mexico's head coach, and several Big Ten assistants could lay claim to the designation. Most of Michigan's staff is new to the league, so it's hard to judge their recruiting clout just yet. I settled on Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who has landed several top prospects from the Maryland/Washington, D.C., area and elsewhere.

Here's my list of top recruiters for each Big Ten team. Many of you follow recruiting as closely or more closely than I do, so please e-mail me your suggestions and votes and I'll post the responses later in the week.


Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell -- Illinois might have lost its pipeline to D.C. with Locksley's departure, but Mitchell continues to get the top players from the Chicago area. The team's recruiting coordinator has brought linebacker Martez Wilson and others to Champaign, and was instrumental in landing 2009 top prospects Terry Hawthorne and Kraig Appleton. The departure of O-line coach Eric Wolford hurts Illinois' recruiting, but co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch does well in Florida.


Wide receivers coach Billy Lynch -- The head coach's son is responsible for nearly half of Indiana's 2009 recruiting class. He recruits locally extremely well and last year brought running back Darius Willis to Bloomington.


Offensive line coach Reese Morgan -- Iowa has a tradition of recruiting and developing elite offensive linemen, and Morgan is a big reason why. He recruits the state extremely well and brought in players like Jordan Bernstine and Tyler Sash to go along with seven commitments for 2009. Assistant linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson successfully recruits the surrounding states and has brought players like quarterback Marvin McNutt and Christian Ballard to Iowa City.


Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith and wide receivers coach Tony Dews -- As I stated earlier, it's a bit premature to make final determinations on Michigan's staff. Running backs coach Fred Jackson is a holdover and has recruited the Detroit area well in past years. But both Smith and Dews have distinguished themselves on the recruiting trail, luring top 2009 prospects like Tate Forcier, William Campbell and Craig Roh to Ann Arbor.


Running backs coach Dan Enos -- The former Spartans quarterback has played an instrumental role in upgrading the program's recruiting, which will play dividends Wednesday with a potentially program-changing class. Enos recruits the Detroit area extremely well and has brought in players like wideout Fred Smith and quarterback Kirk Cousins, as well as 2009 prospects like Edwin Baker, Larry Caper and Dion Sims.


Defensive line coach Tim Cross -- The team's associate head coach and lead recruiter played a key role in signing Minnesota's nationally ranked 2008 class, landing players like Troy Stoudermire and Keanon Cooper. Head coach Tim Brewster does much of the heavy lifting in recruiting, but Cross and co-defensive coordinator Ron Lee chip in as well.


Superbacks coach Adam Cushing -- He coaches a group rarely used in Northwestern's offense, but Cushing's contributions as a recruiter have been invaluable. Cushing serves as the team's recruiting coordinator and landed players like defensive end Vince Browne, safety David Arnold, linebacker Brett Nagel and top 2009 prospect Patrick Ward.


Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell -- Several recruiters stand out on Jim Tressel's staff, but Fickell repeatedly lures top prospects from the Cleveland area and far-flung regions like Georgia and Florida. Quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels landed Terrelle Pryor last year, and wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell is a proven recruiter. Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson is a rising star on the recruiting trail.


Defensive line coach Larry Johnson -- Johnson gets the nod after bringing in players like Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans, Navorro Bowman and Jared Odrick. No assistant played a bigger role in Penn State's 2009 nationally ranked class than Johnson, who recruited Derrick Thomas and Darrell Givens, among others. No wonder Ron Zook wanted Johnson to join his staff at Illinois.


Defensive line coach Terrell Williams -- This is another mostly new staff to the Big Ten, and coach Danny Hope does much of the recruiting himself, but Williams has proven to be a major asset so far. Williams helped to land half of Purdue's incoming recruiting class, including top running back Al-Terek McBurse. He recruits Florida extremely well, which falls right in line with Hope's approach.


Offensive line coach Bob Bostad -- Health issues forced top recruiter Henry Mason away from the program in 2007, and his absence is missed. Head coach Bret Bielema has a strong reputation as a recruiter, and Bostad is doing a solid job early in his tenure. Bostad's fingerprints were all over Wisconsin's 2008 class, as he landed offensive lineman Peter Konz and others. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren are also solid recruiters.