McNamara will share the spotlight at Michigan spring game

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After leading Michigan to its first Big Ten championship in 16 years, Cade McNamara could be excused for expecting to be the quarterback getting the most attention at Saturday’s spring game.

He’ll be lucky to get third.

That’s nothing new – any quarterback at Michigan is going to be in the shadow of head coach Jim Harbaugh. Not only was Harbaugh successful as the Wolverines quarterback in his day, but he has also now gone from the coach who can’t win the big one to the man who delivered a victory over Ohio State and a Big Ten championship.

He also went to Minneapolis to look at the Vikings job, but that didn’t work out and he’s back at the Big House.

There will also be another big-name passer in Ann Arbor on Saturday – honorary captain Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will also put on a passing showcase at halftime as he tries to make it back to the NFL; he last played in the NFL in 2016, the same year he started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

Once that’s done, though, McNamara will get his chance to run the offense without the pressure of the past. He beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten title and advanced to the College Football Playoff, all with J.J. McCarthy looking over his shoulder. On Saturday, McCarthy will be sidelined by a sore shoulder, so that battle will have to wait for fall camp.

McNamara will have plenty of weapons coming back to help. Running back Hassan Haskins (1,327 yards, 20 touchdowns) is gone, but Blake Corum had 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Donovan Edwards already looks like the next breakout back.

The receiving corps is deep, led by senior Cornelius Johnson, and the offensive line has several key members back from last year’s winners of the Joe Moore Award for the nation’s best.

Replacing center Andrew Vastardis, who finished his career with six seasons of knowledge of Michigan’s blocking assignments, will be tough. However, the Wolverines grabbed Virginia’s Olusegun Oluwatimi out of the transfer portal. He started 32 straight games, and while he’ll take a while to learn Michigan’s system, he gives them a solid option right off the bat.

The question, of course, will be on defense. Few teams had a pair of pass rushers as good as Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who combined for 25 sacks last season, but both are off to the NFL.

No one on this year’s roster had more than Taylor Upshaw‘s 2.5 sacks. Now a fifth-year senior, Upshaw will need to take a big step forward to help fill the two massive holes on the defensive line. Redshirt junior Mike Morris will also get a long look as an edge rusher.

The secondary also has some holes to fill, but D.J. Turner and Gemon Green give Michigan a pair of experienced cornerbacks and R.J. Moten and Rod Moore should be able to step into the safety spots.

Michigan has the talent to compete for just as much success as it had a year ago.

They just have to find a way to replace Haskins, Hutchinson and Ojabo.

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.