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Michigan State Football: Linebacker Marcel Lewis and offensive lineman Justin Stevens both opt of 2020 season

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Mel Tucker coaching during the first practice of fall camp.
Michigan State Athletics

Two more football players for the Michigan State Spartans have decided to opt out of the 2020 football season due to the health and safety concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Redshirt freshman linebacker Marcel Lewis and true freshman offensive lineman Justin Stevens are the latest Spartans to make the decision to sit out this season. And, really, who could blame them at this point?

Lewis and Stevens bring the total up to four MSU players who have opted out of the 2020 campaign, joining senior defensive end Jacub Panasiuk and senior offensive tackle Jordan Reid.

Lewis appeared in three games — playing primarily on special teams — for the Spartans as a true freshman in 2019 to preserve his redshirt. He plans to use that redshirt this season and return in 2021.

The coronavirus has hit Lewis’ family hard, as he says he has already lost one family member due to it, and has another family member who is “severely sick” and currently in the hospital. He feels this is the right decision for him, and that makes total sense given what his family has gone through.

Lewis was a three-star recruit out of Chippewa Valley in 2019. He would have provided depth as an outside linebacker for MSU this season.

Stevens, on the other hand, is a true freshman offensive lineman out of Canada. He was an early enrollee, starting at Michigan State in January. Chances were high he was going to be taking a redshirt either way this season, but he still could have played up to four games. Now he will sit the entire year out and return to the field in 2021.

Stevens notes that he already has a pre-existing respiratory condition that could put him at extra risk of complications if he were to contract the virus. At 6-foot-5, 292 pounds, Stevens was considered a three-star prospect who is raw (he’s only been playing American football for a couple of years), but has plenty of potential. He likely projects as a tackle for the Spartans.

Speaking on a recent Zoom call with the media, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker was asked about Panasiuk’s decision to opt out, and said he supported the decision “100 percent,” and that the staff and program as a whole also fully supported the decision.

“One thing we’ve been able to establish in a short period of time here is a certain amount of trust,” Tucker said. “We’re able to have open and honest dialogue. With Jacub, we talked and I got his point of view, and I’m 100 percent supporting him in what he wants to do, and we’re supporting him as a program. I think he really appreciates that.”

Tucker then mentioned that a few other players were in conversation with him about potentially opting out, and that those are “individual decisions.” Since then, we’ve now discovered those players to be Reid, Lewis and Stevens, and there could be more to come. Again, Tucker was clear that whatever decisions the players made will be supported by the coaching staff and administration.

“Whatever they decide to do, we’re going to support them,” Tucker said. “Overall, we have a football team that’s excited to get ready for camp, excited to start camp and prepare for our first game. We’re going to play with the guys that are available.”