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.
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.