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Talent, Depth in Secondary

Editor's Note: Today, "K-State Sports Extra" continues its nine-part look at the 2010 Wildcats with each assistant coach taking an in depth look at his respective position.
 
 
By Mark Janssen
 
 
Let's say that a defensive guy - a linebacker or a defensive tackle - plays 70 plays in a game and he has 60 good plays, five pretty good ones and five not so good. Overall, that's probably a decent day.
 
To such a notion, first-year K-State secondary coach Keith Burns says, "Unless you're a defensive back. This is a position where you don't have the luxury of bad plays."
 
Kansas State's safeties - Free and Cat - are filled with experience with the return of Tysyn Hartman and Emmanuel Lamur.
 
Hartman, a 6-3, 206-pound junior, missed spring football due to a knee injury suffered in K-State's final game of the 2009 season at Nebraska. That came at the end of a sophomore year when the Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School talent recorded 54 tackles, had 11 passes defended (including five interceptions), one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The performance helped Hartman to honorable mention All-Big 12 status.
 
Hartman was able to accomplish those feats with his on-field intelligence, to which Burns said, "He's a smart guy with a quarterback history, which automatically gives a guy an advantage because he understands the passing game and passing concepts. He's played with success in the Big 12. He's just a calming force and his leadership is excellent."
 
Lamur, a 6-4, 219-pound junior, led the Wildcats in tackles with 68, plus had three picks, two pass deflections and a pair of fumble recoveries. Lamur's games to remember included a 10-tackle effort against Missouri and two interceptions against Colorado.
 
"Emmanuel just gets better at something on every snap," said Burns. "He's a tough, physical guy who is very good at run support, but he's still learning football."
 
Of the overall position, Burns said, "There's nothing like playing experience, and Tysyn and Emmanuel both have that."
 
Depth will come from Ty Zimmerman who, like Hartman, is a former prep quarterback at Junction City High School.
 
"We made that move in the spring and we were very excited with the way he stepped up," said Burns. "You could immediately tell that he had good football awareness."
 
Burns is equally excited about the cast of Wildcats playing the two cornerback positions. Collectively, he said, "The group has a lot of toughness to them. They are physically and mentally tough. At times you can have fast guys back there who are prima donnas and don't study the position, but these guys have a positive attitude and a work ethic that you like."
 
With the positions far from settled, Burns mentioned the names of David Garrett (5-7, 175, Jr.), Stephen Harrison (5-11, 183, Sr.), Terrance Sweeney (5-8, 176, Sr.) and Matthew Pearson (6-0, 190, Jr.) as top candidates.
 
Garrett, a former transfer from Fort Scott Community College, played in 11 games last year with 29 tackles and one forced fumble; Harrison played in 11 games with 25 tackles and 11 pass deflections; Sweeney, the fastest Wildcat on the team with a sub 4.4 40-time, played in five games at the end of last season; and Pearson is new to the team coming from Hutchinson Community College where he helped the Blue Dragons earn their first bowl victory since 2004.
 
With any defensive back coming from the juco ranks, Burns said, "The challenge is always the speed of the game. After that, it's covering the variety of formations that you see at this level. But the first thing a guy has to adjust to is the tempo and speed of the game. A two-year kid always has a lot of catching up to do."
 
TRANSFERS AT THE CORNERS: Three possible candidates at cornerback hail from the junior-college ranks as Pearson comes from Hutchinson Community College, Garrett is from Fort Scott Community College and Sweeney is from Blinn College.
 
MUCH THE SAME: Burns said that the "Free" and "Cat" safeties are interchangeable positions.
 
CAPTAINS: Hartman and Lamur were both elected captains and team representatives from the secondary unit.
 
FUTURE SAFETY: Redshirting this season after transferring from San Jose State is Tanner Burns, the son of coach Keith Burns. Burns started two seasons at San Jose State.
 
COACH BURNS, defensive backs, first season at Kansas State: Burns, 50, is the lone new addition to the staff ... Played at Arkansas as a safety under coach Lou Holtz from 1980-82 ... collegiate coaching experience at Arkansas, Pacific, Rice, USC, Tulsa and San Jose State ... coached in eight bowl games ... a former Broyles Award finalist for America's top assistant coach.