After COVID setback, Jacub Panasiuk gets chance to rewrite final chapter at MSU

The defensive end contracted the virus before last season and recovered in time…

After COVID setback, Jacub Panasiuk gets chance to rewrite final chapter at MSU 1

How many times in life would it be great to have a do-over?

For whatever reason, we’ve all been in a position where we wish we could go back and do things over again. Often, though, the chance is never afforded.

Jacub Panasiuk, however, is lucky. He’s getting that second chance.

Thanks to the NCAA offering an extra season of eligibility, the Michigan State defensive end is getting another shot at a final season with the Spartans after his senior year was thrown for a loop because of COVID-19.

Panasiuk first decided last summer to opt out of the season, unsure of what it would be like to play during a pandemic. Once the Big Ten ultimately decided to have a season, though, Panasiuk decided he did, in fact, want to play. But just as he began preseason workouts, he was hit with the virus, dropping his weight from 250 pounds down to 225.

He recovered in time to play the season but was hardly in good shape and struggled through six games, missing the final contest at Penn State because of an injury.

It wasn’t the way Panasiuk wanted to end his Michigan State career, so he’s back, ready to give it one final shot in his fifth season with the program.

“Last year didn’t go as I expected,” Panasiuk said last week as Michigan State continued spring practice. “I thought I was gonna have a big year. I came into camp at around like 250 pounds and I was in the best shape I’ve been in a while. Then I got COVID, lost a bunch of weight and then dropped down to I think I hit like 225.

“I played throughout the season, just got through it, and then decided that it’d be best for me to come back. I didn’t think I performed the way that I should have and I thought it was unfair to me and my teammates if I just got up and left when I could use another year and come back and help out the team.”

It would help Michigan State plenty if Panasiuk returned the form he had his junior season in 2019 when he finished with 11 tackles for loss, including five sacks in 13 games. Last season, he managed just one sack in six games as the Spartans were 10th in the Big Ten in sacks.

But with the return of fellow end Drew Beesley, the arrivals of graduate transfer Drew Jordan and the continued progression of players like sophomore Michael Fletcher and a handful of freshmen, the Spartans are expecting to get back to pressuring quarterbacks.

And as the entire defensive line gets comfortable with defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton’s system, Panasiuk believes the production will quickly follow.

“Once we learn to get that chemistry down — especially after we missed out on spring practices (last season) — I think we’ll be able to rush together and really be buying into Coach Haze’s coaching,” Panasiuk said. “His defense is going to do a lot for us. I think once people get reps, they’re going to finally realize that our chemistry is going to get better and be able to trust one another.

“So I think that’s going to really push it to the top.”

It helps having the experience, too, and Panasiuk brings plenty of that.

The younger brother of former Michigan State defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk, Jacub Panasiuk has played in 44 games in his career, starting 30 times. He started 29 in a row before missing the Penn State game in 2020, and has missed only two games to injury in his entire career while never redshirting. He currently has 105 career tackles, including 21 tackles for loss with nine sacks. He also has forced four fumbles and has blocked a kick.

Throw in his experience playing with the likes of Kenny Willekes, Raequan Williams and his brother, Mike, and Panasiuk is valuable in many ways for the Spartans.

“The expectation is for him to be a leader,” defensive line coach Ron Burton said. “The expectation is to understand the process and be able to help other guys around him, and that the experience should be shared by example and by being able to coach those guys up. That’s what we expect, and we expect him to be there to have some things at the end of the year that mean he had a great year with the ability to play consistently up front.”

Panasiuk wasn’t ready physically last season to show that consistency. Now, with his weight back up to around 245 pounds, he believes he’s on the path to having the senior season he had hoped for.

And while he still wants to improve his production, the bigger goal now is a team goal.

“Last year, I came in with a lot of individual goals,” Panasiuk said. “This year, I just want to overall stay healthy, have a healthy season and just do whatever I can to help out the team.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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