Michigan State might have more players opt out; Mel Tucker supports Jacub Panasiuk
Jacub Panasiuk won’t play if Michigan State takes the field this season, and he has the support of his head coach.
The senior defensive end announced Wednesday he was opting out of the 2020 season and intends to take a redshirt year with plans to be back for 2021. On Thursday, first-year coach Mel Tucker said he’s behind his most experienced defensive lineman and indicated there are others on team contemplating a similar decision.
“We talked and I (understood) his point of view,” Tucker said during a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday, “and I'm 100 percent supporting him and what he wants to do. We're supporting him as a program, and I think he really appreciates that. And I'm in discussion with a couple other players as well right now that may want to opt out.
“That's their individual decision, and whatever they decide to do, we're gonna support them.”
Panasiuk is the first Spartan to make the move, though Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Batemen and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, both stars on their teams, have also opted out. Each of those players intends to enter the NFL Draft next spring.
While coaches and players at Colorado State have recently accused leaders in the athletic department of discouraging athletes from being tested for COVID-19 and ignoring guidelines to quarantine athletes who might have been exposed, there is no such issue at Michigan State.
Even as a new coach with most of his staff also new, Tucker has worked hard to develop a rapport within the program.
“One thing that we've been able to establish within a short period of time here is we've been able to establish a certain amount of trust,” Tucker said. “Our communication – player to coach and coach to player – has been very good and it's grown. So we're able to have an open and honest dialogue.”
Michigan State, which came out of a 14-day quarantine Wednesday, begins preseason camp on Friday morning in preparation for the season opener, which is scheduled for Sept. 5 at Spartan Stadium against Minnesota.
How many more players will make the choice not take the field remains to be seen, but Tucker said the entire university will be supportive of all student-athletes, regardless of the choices they make.
“Overall, we have a football team just excited to get ready for camp, excited to start camp and prepare for our first game,” Tucker said. “We know we're going to play with the guys that are available. All of our student-athletes here at Michigan State are being supported by me as well as our administration.”