Saturday, October 24, 2020

Who's in for the Spartans: An update on football opt-outs

September 22, 2020
<p>Freshman cornerback Davion Williams (14) celebrates a downed punt during the game against Michigan on Nov. 16, 2019, at Michigan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Wolverines, 44-10.</p>

Freshman cornerback Davion Williams (14) celebrates a downed punt during the game against Michigan on Nov. 16, 2019, at Michigan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Wolverines, 44-10.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Before the Big Ten announced that they were cancelling the 2020 college football season, players were faced with the difficult decision whether to play or sit out and watch their team play from home. Now with the Big Ten season kicking off in just about one month, players are yet again faced with that question.

As for Michigan State, the Spartans had four player opt-outs before the season cancellation was announced. They were redshirt freshman linebacker Marcel Lewis, senior defensive lineman Jacub Pansiuk, senior offensive tackle Jordan Reid and freshman offensive lineman Justin Stevens.

On Aug. 8, Lewis announced on Twitter that he was opting out of the season after having a family member die from the coronavirus and another being “severely sick in the hospital.” But shortly after the Big Ten announcement of resuming the season last week, Lewis took to Twitter again to make his return to the field public. According to his post, Lewis had opted in “weeks ago” but had not made his decision public until Sept. 16.

Appearing in three games last season as a special teamer, Lewis was able to retain his redshirt and will be a redshirt freshman for the upcoming season.

Pansiuk, similarly to Lewis, decided after the Big Ten announcement that he was reversing course and opting back into the season.

Pansiuk played in 12 games for the Spartans in 2019 racking up 34 tackles and 8.5 sacks. With the departures of Kenny Willikes, Raequan Williams, and his brother Mike Pansiuk, Jacub Pansiuk will likely play a key role on the Spartans defensive line.

As for the other two MSU players, they continue to be considered opt-outs for the season but are still listed on the roster. On Sept. 21 walk-on tight end Jackson Morse and walk-on long snapper Nolan Rossback were added to the Spartans 2020-21 player roster as well.

The absence of Jordan Reid could serve as a big blow to the offense. In 2019, Reid played more snaps than any other player on the team. Starting at right tackle, Reid was a recipient of the 2019 MSU Up Front Award for being the most outstanding offensive lineman.

Stevens announced on Twitter in August that he was opting out “due to the ongoing pandemic and health risks caused by COVID-19.” The 6-foot-5-inch 292-pounder from Mississauga, Ontario was a three-star recruit in high school and the second highest rated player in Ontario according to 247Sports. Stevens likely would not have played much, if at all, in 2020 but his decision to opt-out should not go unnoticed.

Head coach Mel Tucker said last Thursday that he supports his players decisions, regardless of if they decide to play or not.

Around the Big Ten similar decisions are being made that could have significant impacts. Michigan took a hard hit when quarterback Dylan McCaffery announced that he was opting out of the season. McCaffery had been engaged in a battle for the starting quarterback job and was the most experienced quarterback on the roster.

Ohio State and Minnesota on the other hand received positive news. For the Buckeyes, cornerback Shuan Wade and offensive lineman Wyatt Davis both opted in. For the Golden Gophers, wide receiver Rashod Bateman said he intends to play in the 2020 season after previously opting out.

All three players are projected first round picks by CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso. However, Bateman did sign with an agent so he will have to go through a separate NCAA reinstatement process.

As it gets closer to kickoff off the Big Ten season, perhaps we will see either more players opt in or more players opt out.


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