Sadly, there’s some terrible and tragic news coming out of Kent, Oh., this afternoon.
In a release Wednesday, Kent State announced that offensive lineman Jason Bitsko died unexpectedly this morning. According to the school, Bitsko was found unresponsive in the bedroom of his off-campus apartment shortly before 9 a.m.
Police believe he passed away from an undetermined medical issue.
Bitsko was just 21 years old.
“Kent State University and the entire Kent community mourns his passing,” said athletic director Joel Nielsen in a statement. “We are heartbroken by the news of Jason’s death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, teammates and everyone whose lives he touched.”
“Our players, coaches and everyone involved with our team are hurting because he was family,” head football coach Paul Haynes said. “As a team, we will come together and get through this one day at a time.”
The school added in its release that Bitsko would’ve been entering his fourth year with the Golden Flashes and that he would’ve been the starting center this coming season.
Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to everyone impacted by Bitsko’s way-too-early death.
(Photo credit: Kent State athletics)
An off-field incident will lead to some on-field attrition, at least for the short-term, for West Virginia.
Starting left guard Adam Pankey (pictured, large player lifting Smallwood) was arrested earlier this month and charged with driving under the influence following a one-car accident. Dana Holgorsen has confirmed that Pankey has been suspended and will remain that way through at least the opener Sept. 3.
“We hold these guys to high expectations,” the head coach said. “When you don’t meet those, there are going to be consequences. He’s currently suspended from the team. That’s disappointing. He will continue his suspension through Missouri, and we’ll address it at that time.”
Pankey has started 25 games the past two seasons. He started 13 at left tackle in 2014, and 12 at left guard in 2015.
Jim Harbaugh had previously confirmed that two of the three Michigan football players not present for a team photo earlier this month — wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell, running back Kareem Walker and defensive lineman Shelton Johnson — had been suspended, although he declined to specify which two. A couple of weeks later, one of those players has apparently exited the program.
On his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, Mitchell announced that he is “reopening my recruitment to all Universities and football programs.” It’s unclear if the wide receiver has received a release from his UM scholarship.
“I love what U of M had to offer me but, what is best for me and my family comes first,” Mitchell wrote.
A four-star 2016 recruit, Mitchell was rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the state of New Jersey and the No. 167 player overall on 247sports.com‘s composite board. He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice.,
With the opener a little over a week way, Eastern Michigan’s quarterback situation is in a significant state of flux.
The Detroit Free Press has reported that Brogan Roback has been suspended by EMU head coach Chris Creighton. The only reason given was “a violation of our policies.”
EMU opens the 2016 season Sept. 3 against Mississippi Valley State, and it appears Roback will miss at least that contest.
“With the privilege of being a member of the Eastern Michigan University football program there are expectations and standards to which we hold our student-athletes accountable,” a portion of a Creighton’s statement sent to the Free Press read.
Roback took over for Reggie Bell as the Eagles’ starting quarterback after Week 1 last year. He threw for 2,304 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in completing exactly 60 percent of his passes.
Bell transferred after the 2016 season, leaving Roback as the presumptive starter. With Roback’s suspension, it leaves EMU with four scholarship quarterbacks — junior Todd Porter, freshman Isaac Stiebeling, and redshirt freshmen Anton Skupin and James Pensyl. Only Porter, a junior college transfer, has experience at the collegiate level, and would presumably take over as the starter in Roback’s absence.
Not surprisingly, Ryan Finley‘s stay in Raleigh has been extended.
North Carolina State confirmed Tuesday that Finley has been granted an additional season of eligibility by the NCAA. Finley received a medical waiver from The Association that will give him a sixth year if he ultimately chooses to use it.
So, in summation, Finley has three years of eligibility remaining beginning this season and running through the 2018 season.
In April of this year, the quarterback announced that he had decided to transfer from Boise State. A month later, he moved on to NC State as a graduate transfer.
Finley started the first three games last season as a redshirt sophomore for the Broncos before suffering a broken ankle and losing the job he won in the summer to Freshman All-American Brett Rypien, with the latter further solidifying his hold on the position this spring and triggering the transfer decision.
On the depth chart the Wolfpack released earlier this week, Finley was listed as the co-starter along with redshirt sophomore Jalan McLendon.