LSU’s Kelly aims to keep QB starter for season opener secret

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

BATON ROUGE, La. – New LSU coach Brian Kelly is hoping his team can keep a pretty big secret for a week leading up to the revamped Tigers’ season opener.

Kelly said Monday that he’d known for about 48 hours who will start at quarterback this Sunday night against Florida State in New Orleans. But he added that he’d rather not announce whether it’ll be redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier or Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels until as close to kickoff as possible.

“Certainly I think everybody here wants to know who the quarterback is; I get that,” Kelly began. “But I think it’s a tactical advantage for us not to announce it.

“Look, Florida State played a game; that’s an advantage for them,” Kelly continued. “So, it doesn’t help us to give up any of our cards in that sense. So, we’re going to hold on to our card until game day.”

The Seminoles enter the Labor Day weekend showdown in the Superdome with LSU on the heels of a lopsided 47-7 victory over Duquesne in Tallahassee, Florida, last weekend. The Tigers, meanwhile, are about to kick off a new era under Kelly, who was lured away from Notre Dame by a 10-year, nearly $100 million offer from LSU.

Kelly said back when fall camp opened in early August that his staff had a relatively large number of decisions to make about the starting lineup, particularly at quarterback, cornerback and offensive line.

Nussmeier and Daniels have been in a tight competition throughout, Kelly said, indicating that both should expect to see playing time this season, regardless of who starts.

“There’s some great similarities between the two in terms of what they’re able to do,” Kelly said. “They both run extremely well. They both can make plays outside the pocket and certainly we don’t have to change the play-calling. … This is a 1A and 1B. This is not a 1 and a 2. And both of them obviously are going to contribute this year.”

Whoever the backup is should remain “so engaged” in the game – with their helmet on – “because they know how close they are to playing every snap,” Kelly added.

“We’re going to be natural in the ability to get to the next play with the next quarterback,” the coach said. “This isn’t that you have to turn over your play sheet and go to Jayden Daniels play calls or the Nussmeier game plan.”

Kelly was more forthcoming about the offensive line, whose most experienced player, tackle Cameron Wire, started just four games last season.

Kelly said once Garrett Dellinger, who had played both tackle and guard, demonstrated he also could be effective playing center for the first time in his career, “everything else was able to fall into place.”

Dellinger had to learn not only new techniques as it related to snapping the ball and then quickly getting into a blocking stance, but also to how to call out blocking assignments on the line of scrimmage.

“There’s a lot going on there,” said Kelly, who has built a reputation for developing offensive linemen. “Here’s a guy that hadn’t played the position, so that’s a big ask.”

Kelly said junior Anthony Bradford and Central Florida transfer Miles Frazier would start at guard, while Wire and freshman Will Campbell would start at tackle.

But he added that several other linemen would get snaps.

“We’re probably not in a position right now where 72 plays for the inside guys and the outside guys is feasible,” the coach said. “We’re probably going to have to play 7 or 8 guys.”

At running back, John Emery Jr. would appear to be the front-runner – if he’s eligible. Kelly was ambiguous about that.

“John’s done everything that would allow him to remain in good standing with the football program, but I have things that are out of my control as it relates to who I can play – and that’s not something I can comment on,” Kelly said.

If Emery can’t play, Penn State transfer Noah Cain and sophomore Armoni Goodwin appear to be top options.

Kelly did not comment on who’ll start in the secondary, but a handful of players acquired recently from other college teams appear to be in the mix.

Ohio State graduate transfer Sevyn Banks, Oklahoma State senior transfer Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Louisiana-Lafayette junior transfer Mekhi Garner and McNeese State graduate transfer Colby Richardson all have gotten good looks in practice.

NOTES: LSU announced that linebacker Antoine Sampah has entered the transfer portal. Sampah missed all of last season with an injury after appearing in four games for the Tigers as a true freshman in 2020.

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.