NCF Nation: A.J. Sturges

I can't imagine any Michigan State player wants another crack at Iowa more than cornerback Chris L. Rucker.

Rucker appeared to seal a Spartans win last year against the Hawkeyes when he picked off a Ricky Stanzi pass. But a defensive holding penalty on Rucker gave Iowa new life. Three plays later, Stanzi fired the game-winning touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt, who beat Rucker on a slant route with no time left on the clock.

Defensive backs are supposed to have short memories, but you can bet Rucker remembers what happened last year against the Hawkeyes.

He'd love a chance at redemption this week as No. 5 Michigan State visits No. 18 Iowa.

But he shouldn't get one.

Rucker is scheduled to be released from the Ingham County Jail on Thursday after serving eight days stemming from an Oct. 11 drunken-driving arrest that violated his probation. The jail term was part of a plea agreement where Rucker had an operating while intoxicated charge reduced to misdemeanor reckless driving. Rucker's arrest violated the probation he received from his role in the November residence hall assault that involved several Michigan State football players. His probation officer recommended a 21-day jail sentence, but he received 10 days with the plea agreement.

Michigan State indefinitely suspended Rucker following his arrest, and Rucker has missed the Spartans' last two games.

That brings us to this week. Rucker gets out of jail Thursday. When does he return to the field?

Spartans coach Mark Dantonio can learn from the past in making this decision.

Dantonio allowed running back Glenn Winston to return to practice the same day Winston was released from jail after serving four months for his role in an assault that seriously injured Michigan State hockey player A.J. Sturges.

I disagreed with the decision at the time, and it blew up in Dantonio's face when Winston was at the center of the residence hall assault that landed Rucker and other players in hot water. Dantonio has tried to clean up Michigan State's off-field reputation, but his handling of Winston was a disaster.

Rucker's situation is different, and let me make this clear: he deserves to play again this season.

But not Saturday.

Dantonio shouldn't immediately reinstate Rucker. The suspension should last at least another game, and maybe two or three. An immediate reinstatement would make Dantonio look incredibly soft on discipline. It would bring bad P.R. in a time of historic success for the program. It would make Michigan State look like the program of second chances -- for all the wrong reasons.

Dantonio has made so many good decisions this year, including "Little Giants" and "Mousetrap."

Here's hoping the coach makes the right call again.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State sophomore running back Glenn Winston has been reinstated after serving jail time for his role in an assault that seriously injured an MSU hockey player.

Winston practiced with the team today as the Spartans opened preseason camp. Head coach Mark Dantonio said Winston, who began serving time in April, remained eligible and met all the conditions necessary to return to the field.

"Glenn has done everything that he's been asked to do from a judicial and a team standpoint," Dantonio said in a statement. "He has paid the penalty for his actions -- publicly, legally and athletically -- and he worked hard to maintain his academic eligibility while doing so. We regret the entire incident, however at this time, it is important that we support Glenn socially, academically and athletically. He still has a lot of work to do."

Winston pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of assault and was sentenced to 180 days in jail. The off-campus fight left hockey player A.J. Sturges with a serious head injury. Sturges hopes to return to the ice this season.

Winston appeared in seven games last season for Michigan State and led the team with 16 kickoff returns for 364 yards. He could be in the mix at running back, which remains an open competition following the departure of All-American Javon Ringer.

"I support Mark Dantonio's request to reinstate Glenn Winston," athletic director Mark Hollis said in a prepared statement. "Glenn has much work to do, however, the athletics department will not turn its back on this young man. I am supportive of all student-athletes that are a part of our program. We will move forward and continue to support A.J. Sturges and Glenn with all the resources available to us."

I'm all for second chances, but this decision definitely comes as a surprise. Sturges' family can't be pleased to see Winston back on the field. I figured Michigan State would release Winston and he could start over somewhere else.

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April, 14, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

  • Michigan State running back Glenn Winston is heading to jail for his role in an off-campus fight that could have turned out much worse for Spartans hockey player A.J. Sturges, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News. 

John Sturges, the player's father, did direct emotional testimony in court toward Winston about the severity of his offenses.

"You nearly killed my son," Sturges said. "It's now your turn to be punished for your choices."

"It is hard on you," defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "You go through one, it's bad enough, and then start back in and it looks like you're coming along and you start to get a little confidence back and get some improvement, [and the] same thing happens."

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