Badgers’ Mellusi hopeful he can be ready for start of season

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi says he has reached out to former Clemson teammate and current Green Bay Packers wide receiver Amari Rodgers for advice on recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Rodgers tore the ACL in his right knee in March 2019 but was playing for Clemson less than six months after undergoing surgery. Mellusi is hoping to be ready for the start of the 2022 season after tearing his left ACL last November.

“I kind of wanted to know what he did, what his regimen was,” Mellusi said Monday. “He told me the things he did. I was really interested in learning from him about that.”

Mellusi, who played for Clemson from 2019-20, rushed for 815 yards and five touchdowns in nine games with the Badgers last year before getting hurt in a Nov. 6 victory at Rutgers. The injury knocked him out for the rest of the season and is sidelining him for spring practice, which began last week.

“My goal is to be available Sept. 3,” Mellusi said, referring to the date of Wisconsin’s season opener against Illinois State. “That’s the plan.”

While Mellusi expressed confidence about being ready for the start of the season, new Wisconsin running backs coach Al Johnson said there’s no specific timetable on a potential return date.

“There are signs that it’s coming along well,” Johnson said. “We’re hopeful that it’ll be here before too long. But the exact date, sometimes you just don’t know as you progress through on that. From everything I’ve heard, it’s normal schedule.”

Whenever Mellusi returns, he will look a bit different.

Mellusi said he played at about 200-205 pounds last season but is now up to 220.

“I kind of channeled all that frustration and all the things I was kind of going through and just put it in the weight room, honestly,” Mellusi said.

Mellusi isn’t the only Wisconsin running back returning from a season-ending injury. Isaac Guerendo played just four games last year before an injured left foot shut him down for the rest of the season.

Guerendo also expects be ready for the start of the 2022 season.

“I’m running like three times a week,” said Guerendo, who had 23 carries for 160 yards last season. “Each time I run I feel a little bit better. It’s been reassuring that I’m making progress every day. Obviously there’s still soreness, but it’s been a good soreness.”

Wisconsin is hoping the return of Mellusi and Guerendo can take some of the pressure off Braelon Allen, who ran for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman last season. Allen totaled 93 carries in the four games that Mellusi missed, including 29 in a Las Vegas Bowl victory over Arizona State.

“Honestly, it will make my job a whole lot easier,” Allen said. “Being able to put all three of us in different spots around the field, it’s going to be tough for defenses to stop.”

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.