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Zimmerman Finds a Fit on Defense

By Mark Janssen

The banter throughout the press box last Saturday included such early-game lines as, "What would the score be if not for Ty Zimmerman?"
 
Here's why:

• Second play - Zimmerman tackles the Big 12's leading rusher Kendall Hunter for a loss of two yards.
• Fifth play - Zimmerman makes the co-arrest with Tysyn Hartman on Hunter after gain of eight.
• Seventh play -- Zimmerman stops Hunter for a loss of two yards.
• Ninth play -- Zimmerman tackles Hunter for a gain of one.
• On K-State's second punt, it's Zimmerman who makes the tackle on Josh Cooper for a zero-yard return, and on the Wildcats' third punt, it again is Zimmerman, along with Kevin Rohleder, making the stop for no yards on the Cooper return.

There would later be two more football arrests by Zimmerman, which kept the count scoreless at the end of the first quarter against one of the most prolific offensive machines in college football.
 
Zimmerman, a 6-foot-1, 202-pound safety, would finish the game with a career high of 12 tackles - seven solos and five assists - which included two stops for negative yards and one pass broken up.
 
"That's what you want to do every week," Zimmerman said of his performance. "You want to come out and help your team any way possible. The more experience you get, the more the game slows down, and I think that's what's happening right now."
 
Senior defensive end Antonio Felder said of his freshman teammate, "He's making a lot of plays for us. He's young, but he doesn't play young. That's the important thing."
 
Zimmerman, who was rewarded for his efforts with K-State Defensive Player of the Week honors, has 43 tackles for the entire season ranking him second only to Oklahoma's Tom Wort (44 tackles) for freshmen in the Big 12, and in conference games only, his 32 stops in five games (6.4 per game) is second only to Missouri's Kerwi Stricker, who has 22 in three games (7.3 per game) among freshman players.
 
All of that is pretty amazing when one considers that a year ago Zimmerman was a "grayshirt" quarterback in the K-State program. He was working out on his own, while taking a few class hours at K-State, plus helping his father, Randall, coach at his alma mater of nearby Junction City High School.
 
Zimmerman, who had not been involved in a defensive snap since his middle school days, quarterbacked the Blue Jays to a 13-0 2008 Class 6A state championships by passing for 1,920 yards with 25 touchdowns, plus rushing for 1,046 yards and 18 more scores.
 
Even with the glossy resume, Snyder said of Zimmerman's start to the 2010 spring practice as a quarterback, "We went several days and finally said, 'No, we're going to try him on defense.' The day we moved him from offense to defense was a day when we were going to have a full scale scrimmage, so he was involved in a scrimmage without a day of practice and without ever having been in a meeting. He made an impression on everybody to where we all knew that's where he needed to be."
 
Secondary coach Keith Burns said of Zimmerman adapting to the position, "You could immediately tell that he had good football awareness."
 
Zimmerman didn't start K-State's opener against UCLA, but has started every game since with his 43 tackles ranking fifth on the team, which includes three tackles for negative yardage, one pass broken up and one fumble recovery.
 
It was after the O-State game that Snyder said he would not argue with anyone who made the case that Zimmerman was K-State's most consistent defensive football player.
 
"Ty is a young guy that still has some things where he is running around pulling his pants up because he is a young pup," Snyder said after the OSU game. "We knew he was a physical player, but I am proud of his mental capacity to stay in the ball game. He doesn't make many mistakes."
 
At Tuesday's weekly press conference, Snyder added, "Ty is a bright young guy who has some football sense about him. Part of that is being the son of a coach, and part is his focus and willingness to learn and his desire to be as good as he can be."