Michigan State defensive end Jacub Panasiuk had a big opener for the Spartans after dropping weight in the offseason. Matthew Schoch, The Detroit News
East Lansing — His offseason Sunday reward helped lead to a rewarding Sunday this past weekend for Jacub Panasiuk.
During his summer of slimming down, the Michigan State junior defensive end allowed himself a cheat day on Sundays at Chipotle, still staying away from the high-carb ingredients at the eatery.
More than 10 dropped pounds later — about 35 pounds down from when he arrived in East Lansing as a freshman — Panasiuk feels like a new man for the Spartans, who will host Western Michigan on Saturday.
“I can play a lot more plays at a higher speed than I did last year,” Panasiuk said Tuesday. “Last year, I was struggling after two (straight plays) sometimes. So it’s just a completely different feeling.”
The results showed on the stat sheet Friday and on film on Sunday.
Panasiuk had five tackles — three for a loss — along with two forced fumbles and a sack in Friday’s season-opening win against Tulsa, helping to hold the Golden Hurricane to minus-73 yards rushing, a record low for an MSU opponent.
While going over the game film on Sunday with teammate Kenny Willekes, Panasiuk noticed a big difference in his quickness coming off the line.
"We compared this year and last year already over the weekend on Sunday," Panasiuk said of the iPad study session. "You can just see me being able to get off the ball faster and having more twitch in my game."
Willekes earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors, but Panasiuk also got his due, being named to the Eckrich Team of the Week by PFF.com — over Willekes.
Panasiuk was quick to credit his teammate for pushing him toward extra conditioning alongside him this summer as Willekes recovered from a broken leg, a leadership role Willekes has shown since Panasiuk arrived on campus.
“He’s taken a lot of kids under his wing and just taught them the defense, taught them different pass rush moves, how to play the run better,” Panasiuk said. “It’s just real helpful having like Kenny on the opposite side, not just for me, but for the rest of the D-line.”
Panasiuk said he came to Michigan State at about 280 pounds from Roselle, Illinois, ready to join his older brother, Mike, at defensive tackle.
Instead, he was moved to defensive end, working his way to 245 pounds this year with a leaner frame that’s starting to pay dividends.
“You look at him last year, he had a little fat in some places he didn’t need it,” linebacker Joe Bachie said. “You saw how fast he was off the ball, how quick he was. You see the improvement and you see what that did in the offseason.”
In addition to Willekes, Panasiuk was quick to pass along credit to the tackles down the line, brother Mike and Raequan Williams, fellow Chicago-area products.
“Their destruction just makes the ball bounce to us, gives us a lot of plays they don’t get credit for, but they get destruction points,” Jacub Panasiuk said of the team’s grading system.
Defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said with opponents focusing on Willekes and the interior pair, there are going to be opportunities for Panasiuk to feast.
“It’s critical because everybody knows who Kenny Willekes is now,” Tressel said. “The attention is going to be there. So Jacub or the interior guys, in addition to Kenny, steps up and has done what we need.
“But also experience and a year of understanding what he did last year and having a spring and having a fall. I think his confidence is higher.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.