Coming off of an impressive spring where #5 Michigan Statedefensive coordinator Mike Tressel said he could be the Spartans’ spring MVP, defensive tackle Mike Panasiuknow heads toward the 2018 season looking to build off of a strong sophomore season and take another step toward being a dominant force along the defensive line.
During the spring, Panasiuk said that he went in with the mentality of trying to improve a specific area of his game each practice and felt he was able to accomplish a lot with that mindset.
“I feel like my hands are a lot better and my footwork and having that leverage against the offensive linemen,” he said. “That’s what I tried working on, every day I came to practice, trying to get one thing better and I think I did a really good job of that this spring.”
In his sophomore season, Panasiuk tallied 25 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss as he helped anchor a Michigan State run defense that ranked second in the nation.
Coming off of that impressive 2017 season as a defensive unit, Panasiuk said that he and fellow starting defensive tackle Raequan Williams enter 2018 both confident and comfortable playing alongside one another.
“I feel like just having that confidence level,” he said. “Me and Ray are talking out there, trying to loop around each other on the pass and stuff like that. So just having that confidence level every time we go out there is a big factor for us.”
Looking back on the spring session, Michigan State defensive tackles Coach Ron Burton said that he saw more consistency out of Panasiuk and believes the 6-foot-4, 296 pound standout is looking more and more dominant in his eyes.
“His consistency, the ability to understand,” he said. “He’s a 3-technique, he’s getting doubled all of the time and being able to work playing 2-on-1 a lot and utilizing technique and also improving his pass rush has been a plus for us. That’s why he’s been consistent, not just competing, but he’s starting to dominate, so that puts him in the upper echelon in what he’s doing this spring. He’s always been a competitor, but now he’s been able to dominate his position a little bit more.”
Although the Spartans allowed less than 100 yards per game on the ground a season ago, Panasiuk said that No. 2 ranking has only provided motivation to himself and his teammates to try and take over the top spot this fall.
“I feel like, coming off as the second (ranked) run defense in the country last year, we want to get that number one spot,” he said. “Just stepping up in those roles and finding those linebackers and having them come down and finding that defensive end position and just keep striding and strive for greatness. That’s our goal around here.”
Panasiuk will be one of nine returning starters on defense for the Spartans in 2018 and one of 19 returning starters on both sides of the ball.
Panasiuk told Spartan Nation that a lot of the confidence he and his teammates have entering the upcoming season has to do with their experience and comfortability following a strong 10-3 season, which included a second place finish in the Big Ten East and a win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.
“It’s huge,” he said. “I think coming back, we have the most starters than any other team in the country and just knowing that we have those guys that have been in the positions and pressure positions - I feel like we’re all confident in ourselves, the defense and our teammates.”
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