Coach Mel Tucker said junior Mustafa Khaleefah is the third offensive tackle to opt-out due to concerns over COVID-19. The junior from Dearborn made his decision before the season, but Tucker confirmed it publicly Tuesday during his news conference.
Khaleefah, who got 36 snaps on offense and also played on special teams in five games last season, joins senior Jordan Reid and true freshman Justin Stevens, fellow offensive linemen who publicly announced their decisions on Twitter this summer. Reid started all 26 games the past two seasons at right tackle, while Stevens was an early enrollee who’s said he suffers from a respiratory condition that puts him in a high-risk category.
Tucker also announced two true freshmen defensive ends, Simeon Barrow and defensive end Jasiyah Robinson, also have opted out recently. Barrow was in uniform for MSU’s first two games against Rutgers and Michigan but did not play, while Robinson has been inactive all season.
“Everybody’s got to make a decision,” Tucker said. “And we’re supporting our players on decisions that they make relative to COVID.”
The Spartans lost their first player of the season to the transfer portal on Monday in Marcel Lewis. The redshirt freshman linebacker previously had opted out Aug. 8 but decided to play when the Big Ten revived its fall season in September.
Tucker continued to praise his medical team of trainer Sally Nogle and Dr. Jeffrey Kovan for “giving us the ability to practice and play” while navigating the pandemic and required daily testing for COVID-19.
“Sometimes you gotta take yourself out of the situation and realize how blessed we are in a pandemic to be tested every day,” sophomore Michael Dowell said Tuesday. “That’s something I’m really thankful for.”
Tucker said redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jalen Hunt, who appeared to suffer a neck injury in the third quarter of Saturday’s 24-0 loss to No. 10 Indiana, returned to practice Monday. The first-year coach did not provide any other specific injury updates.
“We’ve got some guys that it’s taking a while for them to get back,” Tucker said. “But we’re gonna go with the guys that are available. The guys that are out are working hard to get back as soon as they can and are doing a great job in the training room.”
MSU’s receiver room is also down two bodies. Junior C.J. Hayes’ father, Carl, revealed on Twitter before the season began that his son underwent foot surgery for a second time in eight months. And on Tuesday, Jayden Reed said lone senior Laress Nelson also is out with an unspecified injury.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 5 Michigan State football players opting out over COVID-19 concerns