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By Mark Janssen
PHOENIX, Ariz. - Kansas State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said, "Without question we've missed Ty. We've missed his abilities, but also his leadership on the field."
The good news is that Ty Zimmerman is expected to be "nearly" at 100 percent for the Jan. 3, Fiesta Bowl game against the Oregon Ducks. It was in the 23-10 victory over TCU on Nov. 10 that Zimmerman suffered a significant injury to his leg or foot.
"It was something like that," grinned the Wildcat safety staying true to coach Bill Snyder's rule of not talking about injuries. What followed was a 52-24 loss to Baylor, followed by a 42-24 victory over Texas for the Big 12 Championship.
"It's been very frustrating having to watch from the sidelines," said Zimmerman, who recorded 45 tackles this season with two fumble recoveries, and a Big 12-high of five interceptions, which included picks in four consecutive games ... a first for a Wildcat since 1989. "As a player you never want to sit on the sidelines and just watch. You can say only so much that can help your team."
Zimmerman, who had started 35 straight games prior to the injury, said he was never given a timetable for his return, but instead told that the rehabilitation process would be monitored on a weekly basis.
He said he started "moving around and doing some stuff" following the Texas game, and today he says, "I feel great. The biggest thing is mentally getting back into the game. I just have a greater appreciation for the game after sitting out for that time."
Asked if there's anything he "can't" do, Zimmerman said, "I haven't seen anything yet."
Overall, Zimmerman, a first-team All-Big 12 selection and third-team All-American pick, said of the year, "It's been a fun season being a part of something special. This will be a great chance to close things out the right way."
HEADING TO THE NFL?: The name of Chip Kelly has been rumored for more than one NFL coaching position in the last few weeks. When the Oregon head coach was asked if the rumor had become a distraction, he said, "It doesn't bother me. It gives you guys (media) stuff to write about, so I think you're entertained by it. But because I don't read it, it doesn't' mean anything to me."
HAWAII TO OREGON: Oregon freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota made an immediate impact for the Ducks passing for 2,511 yards with 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions. A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was tabbed the No. 6 recruiting prospect in the state and the No. 12 overall quarterback in the nation, the 6-foot-4, 211-pound Mariota was the Pac-12's Offensive Freshman of the Year.
Of his accomplishments, he said, "I have these visions. I always try to hold myself to a high standard. But to have the success we've had this season, and to have the success that I have personally had, it's been unreal."
The Ducks average 550 yards per game of offense - 323 rushing and 227 passing - and score 50.8 points per game.
But for the Wildcats, Mariotta smiled as he said, "I'm sure coach Kelly will add some tweaks here and there."
- It was fun to run into Lynn Larson at the Saturday morning press conference. Larson played for the Wildcats in 1968 and 1969 under Vince Gibson, and later became the first Wildcat to ever play in a Super Bowl. We'll have more on Larson later in the week.
- The 22,500-plus Fiesta Bowl tickets distributed through the K-State ticket office were tops in the Big 12 and third only to Stanford (Rose Bowl) and Ole Miss (Compass Bowl) for tickets sold through participating schools.
- Today's K-State schedule will include a Chapel/Mass opportunity at 8:15, followed by select members of the offense attending a press conference, followed by a 12:30 practice at Scottsdale Community College.
- Tonight, the players will be treated to a steak dinner as Mastro's Steakhouse.