NCF Nation: Ty Zimmerman

Spring preview capsules: Big 12

February, 24, 2014
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Spring football is rapidly approaching.

Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:

Baylor

Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 5

What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.

Iowa State

Spring start: March 10

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.

Kansas

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.

Kansas State

Spring start: April 2

Spring game: April 26

What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.

Oklahoma

Spring start: March 8

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.

Oklahoma State

Spring start: March 10

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.

TCU

Spring start: March 1

Final spring practice: April 5

What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.

Texas

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.

Texas Tech

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.

West Virginia

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 9

October, 28, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 9 in the Big 12:

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiBlake Bell answered his critics with a big performance in Saturday's victory over previously unbeaten Texas Tech.
Team of the week: After three scuffling weeks, Oklahoma finally broke out with an inspiring 38-30 win over Texas Tech. Most encouraging, QB Blake Bell had his best game since Notre Dame. On a second-quarter touchdown drive that finally got the Sooners going offensively, Bell completed 3 of 4 passes on third downs for 45 yards. After the lone third-down incompletion, Bell rushed for 10 yards on fourth-and-2 to the Texas Tech 14. Two plays later, he found Jalen Saunders for a touchdown. That kind of drive inspires confidence as the Sooners get ready for Baylor -- both for Bell in himself, and for the Sooners in their quarterback.

Disappointment of the week: West Virginia had begun to show signs of life offensively, scoring 30, 42 and 27 points, respectively, in its previous three games. But the Mountaineers took a major step back at Kansas State on both sides of the ball. After taking a 12-7 lead early in the third quarter, West Virginia was thoroughly outplayed the rest of the way. K-State scored four unanswered touchdowns on the next four drives while the Mountaineers mustered nothing, as the Wildcats coasted to a 35-12 win. West Virginia can still get to a bowl game. But the margin for error is running out.

Big (offensive) men on campus: Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland, K-State QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters and Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard.

Roland proved he’s the Cowboys’ most effective running back, racking up a career-high 219 yards and four touchdowns in his first game as a featured back. His 58-yard rumble in the third quarter essentially put Iowa State away.

Sams and Waters were stellar in K-State’s win over West Virginia. The dual-threat duo combined to complete 18 of 21 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and ran for 71 yards.

This will be the last time Millard will be eligible for any game recognition. He tore his ACL in the fourth quarter covering a kick. On the previous drive, he took a pass and hurdled a Tech defender for a 14-yard gain to set up a touchdown from the Tech 3. Millard was also tremendous all game as the lead blocker for Damien Williams, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay. Millard’s great career in Norman comes to a close.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Texas linebacker Steve Edmond, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and K-State safety Ty Zimmerman.

Edmond led a Texas defense that completely shut down TCU in the Longhorns’ 30-7 win. He had an interception, two pass breakups and helped thwart the TCU running attack.

Gilbert had a pick-six early that gave OSU an early 14-0 lead. He added three tackles and a pass breakup.

Zimmerman spearheaded the Wildcats defensively with 12 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. The forced fumble of West Virginia QB Clint Trickett set up a K-State touchdown that put the Wildcats ahead 28-12 in the fourth quarter, effectively putting the game away.

Special-teams players of the week: Everyone involved with the Texas Tech punt return and kickoff coverage teams. Trey Haverty’s units masterfully executed a pair of maneuvers in the third quarter that almost allowed Tech to knock off the Sooners. Down 21-14, deep man Jordan Davis ran away from the ball to draw the OU punt coverage team toward him. Toward the other side of the field, where the ball actually was, Tanner Jacobson scooped up the ball on the bounce and returned it 17 yards. The play set up a field goal. Immediately after the field goal, Kramer Fyfe's onside kick was recovered by Summitt Hogue. Three plays later, the Red Raiders were in the end zone to take a 24-21 lead.

Play of the week: For the second straight week, Oklahoma wide receiver Lacoltan Bester takes this category. After the Sooners fell behind 24-21, Oklahoma dialed up a double reverse pass for Bester -- the same play that resulted in a touchdown pass last week. But with no one to throw to this time, Bester took off and weaved his way through the Tech defense 35 yards for a touchdown. The Sooners never trailed again.

Stat of the week: By defeating Kansas 59-14, Baylor extended its winning streak to 11 games dating back to last season, the longest winning streak in Baylor history.

Quote of the week: “They’ve all had a goal and a dream to play on Sunday, and now they’ve done it.” -- Longhorns coach Mack Brown, after the weather-delayed Texas-TCU game went past midnight

Video: Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman

January, 2, 2013
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Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman talks about the Baylor game and the Oregon offense.

ESPN.com's 2012 All-Big 12 team

December, 10, 2012
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Congrats to all these guys for turning in fantastic seasons. Naturally, there will be some snubs and some things that need to be explained. Check the blog later today for more thoughts.

Without further ado, here's the All-Big 12 team from ESPN.com.

OFFENSE

QB: Collin Klein, Kansas State
RB: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
RB: James Sims, Kansas
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
WR: Terrance Williams, Baylor
WR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
C: Joe Madsen, West Virginia
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
OL: LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU
DL: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DL: Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DL: Alex Okafor, Texas
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State
LB: Arthur Brown, Kansas State
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Jason Verrett, TCU
CB: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
S: Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

SPECIALISTS:

PK: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia

Honorable mention: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia; Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma; Anthony Cantele, K, Kansas State; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas; Justin Brown, PR, Oklahoma; Tanner Hawkinson, OL, Kansas; Jake McDonough, DL, Iowa State; Lane Johnson, OL, Oklahoma; John Hubert, RB, Kansas State; Travis Tannahill, TE, Kansas State; Durrell Givens, S, Iowa State; Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
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Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in the Big 12 this week:

1. Remember all the little people. K-State has dealt with the distraction and hype really well this season. The Wildcats have been consistent and solid every week. This week, though, the pressure is at a whole new level. They're the nation's No. 1 team. Collin Klein's presence will test the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Oklahoma State lost in its 11th game last season. K-State should roll Baylor on paper, but can it keep its focus in uncharted territory?

2. To care or not to care, that is the question. West Virginia was hyped all offseason for this game. Carrying a four-game losing streak into the Oklahoma game was not part of the plan, though. It's asking a lot for fans to come in droves and provide a big-time atmosphere. Will the Mountaineers fans do it and try to help their team reach bowl eligibility? Tough test for a fan base that has had a pretty terrible month or so and hasn't seen a win since Oct. 6 or a win in its home stadium since Sept. 29.

[+] EnlargeBaylor's Lache Seastrunk
Denny Medley/US PRESSWIRELache Seastrunk (25) rushed for 91 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries against Oklahoma.
3. Baylor breaks out its Jet Ski. Lache Seastrunk was officially set free last week, emerging as Baylor's No. 1 back with three touchdowns. Can he go to work against K-State's front seven this week, a solid unit headlined by Arthur Brown but still missing Tre Walker? Jarell Childs has played well, but Seastrunk's game-breaking speed could come into play.

4. Just do it. If Kansas is going to beat Iowa State, it will do so on the backs of its, uh, backs. Tony Pierson and James Sims are fantastic. Charlie Weis talked about needing to do creative things to run the ball when everybody knows the Jayhawks are going to run the ball. Well, everybody knows KU is going to run the ball. What does Weis have prepared this week for KU's best chance to crack its 19-game Big 12 losing streak?

5. Get a medical team on it, stat. Klein's injury saga is over, but K-State has more injury issues this week to keep an eye on. Starting safety Ty Zimmerman left the stadium in a boot last week, and Tyler Lockett suffered an ankle injury late against TCU. Both are key pieces to the nation's No. 1 team. Will they play, and will they do so effectively? All bets are off in this one.

6. At what point does someone start swiping chairs? Oklahoma State has played musical chairs at quarterback, and it shocked a lot of folks when Mike Gundy confirmed J.W. Walsh was available last week but didn't play. He is not on the depth chart this week, instead with an "or" between Clint Chelf and Wes Lunt. The good news: All three can play, and OSU can win with all of them. The bad news: This is turning into a bit of a circus. At least it's unpredictable for opponents, so that plays to OSU's advantage while the competition has to prepare for all three.

7. If you're so inKleined. A.J. Klein has had a quiet couple of games since Jake Knott's injury, making just 11 tackles total in the past two games after tallying at least 11 in three of the past five before Klein left the field. Klein has moved to weakside linebacker and wants more production out of the position. Iowa State needs that while Jeremiah George replaces Knott and the duo teams up to slow KU's running game.

8. Gotta fix the leaks. Oklahoma dominated Baylor's passing game, but the defense was hot after the game after giving up a season-high 252 yards on the ground to the Bears. Can WVU's Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie have a little success? Dana Holgorsen wasn't happy with the Mountaineers' run game, but this matchup will have an influence on the winner in Morgantown.

9. Time for the hook ... again? Steele Jantz has gone back to struggling after tearing up Baylor. He completed just more than 50 percent of his passes in consecutive weeks -- both losses -- and hasn't topped 200 yards through the air with one touchdown to three picks. If he struggles again, does Jared Barnett get a shot against KU? I seem to remember another Big 12 team switching QBs late and having it pay off.

Big win has K-State thinking Big Bowl

October, 21, 2012
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Bill Snyder doesn't deal in the hypothetical very often, if ever.

What is, is. Preparation and hard work fuel success. Not the catchiest of catch phrases, but it's worked OK for more than a couple of decades for a man who just might be the greatest coach in college football history (and is certainly its most underappreciated).

Get better every day. That's what Snyder asks his players to do.

This year, it's exactly what the Wildcats have done, and that improvement was on display in Saturday's 55-14 laugher in Morgantown, where Kansas State embarrassed yet another team picked to finish ahead of it in the Big 12 preseason poll.

"We've found a level a consistency that was good and that we want to see, but there's still things we can't have," quarterback Collin Klein said, citing a failure to score a touchdown on the game's opening drive, when K-State settled for three points.

Never mind that it scored touchdowns on its next seven drives, while Klein passed his opponent, Geno Smith, as the Heisman Trophy front-runner in the process.

"They kicked our butts," Smith said, adding that he'd never faced "adversity of this magnitude" after a pair of blowout losses to Kansas State and Texas Tech.

Klein led the way with a career-high seven touchdowns and 323 passing yards, scoring four times on the ground and throwing three touchdowns to just two incompletions on 21 attempts. He was slinging it well enough to lead Chris Harper to start calling his quarterback "John" late in the game.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Christopher JacksonKansas State hounded QB Geno Smith into his worst yardage total under Dana Holgorsen.
As in Elway. We'll see about that, but the defense played as big a part as any in the 41-point beatdown.

The Wildcats picked Smith off twice Saturday, twice more than all six teams the Mountaineers had previously faced this season. The defense held him to 143 yards on 21-of-32 passing, his lowest total under coach Dana Holgorsen.

Hold a mirror up to these Wildcats and you'll see Snyder, who had a lengthy face-to-face visit on the field to encourage Smith after the game, and left the gridiron to chants of his own name yet again from a visitors section packed with purple.

His 16 goals? His demands for one thing above all -- to improve each day? Kansas State has followed the path this season, and that daily improvement has it in position to make a run at the BCS title game. It's beaten the two teams most likely to beat out the Cats for a Big 12 title, and did so on the road as an underdog.

"We are just what we are," Snyder said, again wearing his commemorative windbreaker jacket from last year's Cotton Bowl, again sipping on some coffee with cream and sugar while fielding postgame questions. "I believe our players embrace those values. ... They're the same values you've taught your son or your daughter."

The win over Oklahoma looks better by the day -- the Sooners have beaten their last three opponents by 21, 42 and 45 since -- and the SnyderCats are the lone undefeated Big 12 team standing.

Alabama and Florida stand above the Cats and are on a crash course to meet in the SEC title game. Oregon (maybe) sits above the Wildcats at No. 3.

Still, if Kansas State keeps winning, the cards are likely in place to finally give Snyder a shot at the national title that eluded him back in 1998, thanks to an upset loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 title game. Any talk about that, though, wouldn't be Kansas State's style.

One game at a time. Better every day.

"One of those [16 goals] is no self-limitations," Snyder said. "However good we may or may not have been today, tomorrow, there isn't any reason why you can't be better."

When you've gotten as good as Kansas State has, there's plenty of time to relax. After picking Smith off twice, Snyder joked on the sidelines that the Wildcats would stop the game and hold a pep rally if they picked him off a third time. That didn't happen, but Snyder's feeling a lot looser these days now that he's cleaned up the mess his successor/predecessor, Ron Prince, left behind.

"He's a lot looser than when he first got here, but we sucked when he first got here, so I would be mad, too. We've gotten way better, 20,000 times better," Harper said.

Harper saw that turnaround in Year 2, when the Wildcats jumped from 7-6 to 10-3, losing one of those games by just seven points on the road to Big 12 champion Oklahoma State -- and with a few more seconds, Kansas State might have escaped with a win.

"We understood that what we were doing," Harper said. "It worked."

It always has for Snyder. Will it work better than ever, and keep a healthy zero in the loss column through December?

By now, it's getting harder and harder to bet no.
John Hubert tips the scales at about 190 pounds. If you measured him up against a wall, you'd need only about 5 feet, 7 inches to get the job done.

Kansas State's junior running back doesn't possess the most imposing figure in the Big 12. Opposing defenders, though? They might demand a second time checking the tape on Hubert.

"He just plays like he’s about 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, coming downhill," K-State safety Ty Zimmerman told ESPN.com this week.

[+] EnlargeTony Jefferson
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJohn Hubert has shouldered a larger share of the rushing load this season, and it has paid off for the Wildcats.
No matter whom you ask, it seems that's Hubert's most common compliment. He gained 970 yards on the ground in 2011, and in 2012, he's second in the Big 12 with 611 yards, just 3 yards behind league leader Joseph Randle.

"He’s just electric. He’s a small guy but he plays so big," Zimmerman said. "He’s been doing that the last couple years. He gives you big plays when you need them, breaks so many tackles and he’s a good asset to our offense."

Hubert's teammate in the backfield, Collin Klein, gets the Heisman hype and attention -- from both defenses and media -- but Hubert has proved himself to be almost as valuable to the Wildcats' offense and to Klein's efforts.

"Most people have two people that can run the ball as we do, and defenses are smart enough to know they have to defend both," coach Bill Snyder said.

Klein led the Wildcats with 1,141 rushing yards last season, but the biggest difference in Klein's encore has been Hubert's emergence. The Waco, Texas, native scored only three times last season and touched the ball only 200 times compared with Klein's 317 carries.

This season, Hubert has scored eight times though six games -- including four scores in a 40-point win over rival Kansas -- and has carried the ball 98 times, the exact number of times Klein has carried the ball.

"He’s just a good running back. He’s got a strong lower body and gets yardage you wouldn’t think someone maybe his size would get after contact," Snyder said. "He’s a patient runner, and kind of picks and chooses where he goes, and normally makes pretty good decisions about that. He’s been a steady, consistent player for us."

That steadiness and patience has allowed Hubert to turn his touches into nearly 100 more yards than Klein's. He averages 6.23 yards a carry, almost a full yard more than Klein, and ranks second in the Big 12 in yards per carry among ball carriers with at least 40 carries this season.

"It takes two or three guys to bring him down, and he’s so smart," Zimmerman said. "Just watching him play, he’s really patient and waits for holes to open up, and when they open up, he shoots right through them."

Part of Hubert's growth has been his experience. Heading into 2011, most figured Tennessee transfer Bryce Brown would be the Wildcats' featured back. Hubert had just a handful of eyes looking to him before Brown got off to a rough start with only three carries and one fumble before leaving the team. Brown entered the draft and now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the meantime, Hubert has earned a reputation as one of the Big 12's best backs, and by the end of the season, he might just have a case as the best in the Big 12.

"People think it’s easy to contain him and bring him down," Zimmerman said. "It’s not."

Defensive redemption propels KSU upset

September, 23, 2012
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Tre Walker climbed the wall in the southeast corner of Owen Field just to reach a few loved ones Saturday. He had to hug somebody, and couldn't wait until his pads were off to do it.

While the Kansas State linebacker took care of his business there, a "K-S-U" chant echoed through Norman after Bill Snyder's Wildcats finished making history. Walker was climbing to get off the field, but the rest of his team never wanted to leave after Kansas State's 24-19 victory over Oklahoma. Coaches and players hugged and high-fived.

Kansas State and Oklahoma players both had glassy eyes, for very different reasons.

"I mean, I was shocked," defensive end Adam Davis said.

Sure, the Kansas State faithful knew they could win. But that they would? History shot disapproving glances the way of anyone who believed otherwise.

Oklahoma was a perfect 14-0 versus ranked teams at home under Bob Stoops, dispatching opponents by an average of 28.2 points dating all the way back to 1999. The Wildcats hadn't beaten the seven-time Big 12 champs in the regular season since 1997.

Those stats, though, hadn't reached Davis. And he was still shocked. So were the raucous 85,276 Sooners fans in attendance who provided the best Big 12 atmosphere to date.

"It feels like you're on top of the world," Davis said of the postgame party on the field.

The big names on Saturday will attract plenty of attention. Landry Jones' shortcomings. Collin Klein's toughness and passing prowess, highlighted by a 12-yard completion on third-and-11 to Tramaine Thompson that all but iced the game in the final minutes.

[+] EnlargeJarell Childs, Ryan Mueller
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJarell Childs (26) celebrates with Ryan Mueller after recovering a Landry Jones fumble in the end zone for Kansas State's first touchdown.
The real story? A dogged defense that harassed Jones into two game-breaking turnovers and got lucky with a third when a low snap scooted past Blake Bell, leaving the Belldozer broken down on the way back to the sideline instead of into the end zone.

Snyder, ever the exploiter of weaknesses, saw a big one in Jones that plenty of others saw, too.

Asked if Jones was "spooked," Davis replied: "I noticed it in the first half. When we'd get upfield, he'd start jabbing his feet real quick and moving. That let us know that he don't like nobody in his blind side, and we tried to attack it all night."

The Wildcats succeeded. They flushed Jones from the pocket in the first quarter and linebacker Justin Tuggle, playing defensive end on that particular play as part of a specialized package, caught Jones from behind and stripped the ball. Jarell Childs scooped it up just a yard in front of the goal line and scored.

Kansas State's defense believed.

"What we did all week was worked on trying to flush him out of the pocket, because we know he ain't good with pressure," Davis said. "If we get to his blind side, he's going to get jittery and try to move out the pocket and scoot up and stuff. We tried to get our D-tackles to cause pressure on the edge and try to get him."

The Wildcats notched two sacks, but the constant pressure had Jones looking mediocre for most of the night. His second turnover came when tackle Vai Lutui lunged at Jones from his knees. Jones threw off his back foot and promptly sailed a probable completion into the waiting arms of Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman.

"It was a little bit of a struggle offensively. ... Our defense, I think, created the turnovers that took place, by and large," Snyder said. "I thought they did a heck of a job."

Snyder was a cool customer holding a hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar, taking sips while he answered questions after the victory in his Cotton Bowl windbreaker on a brisk fall night in Oklahoma. At one point during the conference, a cricket flew in and landed an inch from Snyder's left eye. He broke an answer for only a moment to swat away the pest.

Nothing could get to the unflappable SnyderCats on this night.

"When you play somebody as good as an Oklahoma team, it really does mean something special to them, and they feel good about it," Snyder said.

Snyder's demeanor wouldn't have been much different if the 14-point underdogs had gotten waxed by 30, like so many teams at Owen Field before them. Still, his message to the team remained consistent.

"He said he was very proud of us," Davis said with a grin.

Expecting maybe something a little more dramatic?

"Yes, we were, but you never really know what to expect," Davis said.

Well, that just wouldn't be very Snyder. Saturday's win, though? Doing what no team had ever done before and getting outgained in total yardage while doing it?

Could anybody else but Snyder do that?

Big 12 recruiting needs in 2012

January, 24, 2012
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Signing day is coming fast. Next Wednesday, the next round of players will sign up for their respective programs and start what could be storied careers.

Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.

BAYLOR

Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.

Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.

Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.

Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.

Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.

KANSAS

Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.

Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.

Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.

KANSAS STATE

Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.

Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.

Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.

OKLAHOMA

Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.

Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.

Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.

Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.

Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.

TEXAS

Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.

Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.

Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.

TCU

Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.

Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.

Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.

TEXAS TECH

Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.

Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.

Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.
Kansas State led the nation in scoring defense and total defense after its first two games.

The problem? The impressive numbers came against FCS Eastern Kentucky and Kent State from the MAC.

"They didn’t give us much credit after we played well the first two nonconference games," said Wildcats safety Tysyn Hartman. "People didn’t expect us to play well against Miami."

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Arthur Brown
AP Photo/J Pat Carter"He really moves at a different speed than everybody else," teammate Tysyn Hartman said of Kansas State's leading tackler, Arthur Brown.
The reason? Kansas State had one of the nation's worst defenses a year ago. They were one of just two teams to give up 3,000 yards rushing and ranked 106th nationally in team defense.

After the strong start against weak competition, there was reason to doubt how long it would be before Kansas State slipped down the national rankings.

Last week, though, the Wildcats gave up just three first-half points to Miami and won the game with a goal-line stand.

"A week ago, they were in a similar situation with the exception of the game wasn’t on the line, but the shutout was, and played as well at that time and had a great goal-line stand," said coach Bill Snyder. "I think it’s given them a great deal of confidence."

This week, an even tougher test awaits Kansas State in its conference opener against Baylor. Slow the red-hot Bears offense, and nobody will doubt the change from 2010 to 2011.

"We struggled last year. It was one of the big concerns of the offseason and we got better and better as the offseason progressed, and really, I don’t think people expected us to play this well," Hartman said. "We’ve been flying under the radar for awhile, but if we put up the numbers we did in the first few games, I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore."

K-State couldn't ask for a better test. Baylor comes into Saturday's game with a quarterback that's shined as one of the brightest stars of the season, and an offense that's outscoring every team in college football but Georgia Tech and Oregon.

"Hopefully we can change that up a little bit, but he’s hot right now. He’s playing great football and then he has great weapons around him," Hartman said. "It’s not really about who we’re playing, it’s about us getting better. As long as we’re getting better week in and week out, that means we can beat anybody and that showed up last week when everybody counted us out."

The change started in the offseason. Last season's struggles were obvious, and the season ended with Syracuse's Delone Carter rushing for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the Pinstripe Bowl, a Kansas State loss. Goal No. 1 in the offseason was to get faster, a weakness a defense can't afford in the wide-open Big 12 where offenses seek to take advantage of space and athletic ability.

"You can’t stop the run unless you have all 11 guys pursuing to the ball, and just training secondary to trigger it and get down there on the run and that’s really helped," Hartman said.

The defense also added juco transfer Nigel Malone, who now leads the team in interceptions and former blue-chip recruit Arthur Brown. Brown, a former Miami Hurricane, has nine more tackles than any other Wildcat.

"He really moves at a different speed than everybody else. If you’ve got a chance to watch him, really just instincts how fast he gets to the ball and he doesn’t miss tackles," Hartman said. "Once he gets you wrapped up, I mean, you’re going down."

Snyder credits another year of experience and maturity for players like Hartman and cornerback David Garrett, as well as sophomores Ty Zimmerman and Tre Walker, who won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after making three tackles in last week's game-winning goal-line stand.

"We’ve gotten a little bit faster. We’ve played a bit better up front. We’ve gotten more sizeable and quicker linebackers," Snyder said. "Our secondary certainly has gained experience as well and has been reasonably responsible. There’s just a number of things and if you had to identify one, you probably would say the experience factor and the maturity factor combined would probably give us a little reason to believe we’re a little better."

How much better? We'll find out Saturday.

Big 12 position ranking: Safeties

June, 30, 2011
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We'll move on to the safeties today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
The group of safeties across the Big 12 isn't fantastic, without any truly elite groups, but it's decent. There aren't any teams that look really hopeless at the position in the immediate future.

I haven't given it real close examination so far on the positions we haven't covered yet, but this is by far the closest gap between 1-10 of any position so far.

Here's how I ranked them. (Remember, I lumped in nickel backs with linebackers, so Ahmad Dixon and Tony Jefferson won't be found anywhere in this post.)

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State's Markelle Martin
John Rieger/US PRESSWIREOklahoma State's Markelle Martin is the Big 12's best overall safety.
1. Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys have Markelle Martin, the Big 12's best overall safety who's a big talent but a much better hitter than he is a cover man. Johnny Thomas is solid and both safeties got a lot better as the 2010 season progressed. OSU's depth lands them here, though. Daytawion Lowe could start for a few Big 12 teams and is slightly better than A&M and Texas' reserves, the other two teams with the deepest group of safeties.

2. Texas -- Blake Gideon takes his share of criticism, a good deal of it fair, but there's a reason he's starting for Texas for a fourth season this fall. He knows what he's doing. Kenny Vaccaro will challenge OSU's Martin, among others, for the title of the Big 12's biggest hitter and Nolan Brewster and Christian Scott are strong reserves at the position. The Longhorns lose a lot at corner, but all the safeties are back from a defense that allowed just over 170 yards a game through the air in conference play last season.

3. Texas A&M -- The Aggies' Steven Terrell and Trent Hunter are solid, and Hunter is a big playmaker who made 62 stops and picked off two passes last year. Toney Hurd Jr. is the backup and was one of the most impressive freshmen in fall camp last year, joined by Steven Campbell in the rotation.

4. Kansas State -- Tysyn Hartman has loads of experience and is one of the Wildcats that Bill Snyder loves to rave about. Ty Zimmerman was one of the Big 12's best freshman last year, and picked off three passes. They should be solid again next year, and for as much criticism as K-State's defense faced last year, they were fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. Logan Dold should be in the rotation, too.

5. Oklahoma -- Reserve Sam Proctor has starting experience, but Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin enter fall camp as starters. That says plenty about how Bob Stoops and Brent Venables feel about them. In a word: confident. Colvin has the most potential in the group, but the two starters will have to learn on the go. Proctor, a senior, should be able to help. James Haynes will also be in the rotation.

6. Missouri -- Jasper Simmons is gone, but Missouri's safeties might be a bit underrated in this spot. Kenji Jackson has loads of experience and should be solid, and Tavon Bolden and Matt White are a pair of promising sophomores who should compete at free safety. Kenronte Walker should be in the rotation, too.

7. Texas Tech -- Injuries were a problem last year for the Tech secondary, but Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson will hold down the traditional safety spots away from the line of scrimmage in new coordinator Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5. The unit gave up lots of big plays in 2010 (151 over 10 yards, 46 over 20, and 25 over 30, all the most in the Big 12), but I'd expect that number to drop under Glasgow if the secondary stays healthy. Davis is the team's leading returning tackler, with 87 stops. Brett Dewhurst and Giorgio Durham should be in the rotation.

8. Kansas -- Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald give Kansas a lot of speed and athletic ability at the position, but both of the team's safeties from 2010 graduated and Terry and McDougald are short on experience. Lubbock Smith should add some solid depth to the position.

9. Iowa State -- Iowa State loses their top playmaker at the position, David Sims, but returns starter Ter'Ran Benton. He'll be helped out by some combination of Jacques Washington, Earl Brooks and Deon Broomfield once the season starts. Iowa State's biggest weakness is on the defensive line, so it's hard to get a good read on how good the safeties really are with such a poor pass rush up front.

10. Baylor -- This group might move up the list during the year under Phil Bennett, but the two best raw athletes (Ahmad Dixon, Prince Kent) at the position moved to nickel back and linebacker, respectively. The team's leading tackler, Byron Landor, graduated, and that left Mike Hicks as the other starter. He'll be helped out at safety by Sam Holl, Josh Wilson and K.J. Morton. Last year, the Bears ranked last in the Big 12 in pass defense in conference play, giving up over 300 yards a game. That'll have to change or Baylor won't get past seven wins.
Kansas State went with the more mobile Collin Klein over senior Carson Coffman, and it's paying off early, with a pair of running touchdowns for Klein, a former receiver.

Both touchdowns were from just a yard out, and Kansas State leads, 14-3.

Klein's first came on Kansas State's first play, thanks to a 41-yard punt return by Ty Zimmerman, but he engineered a great second drive for his second sneak.

That drive included a 40-yard completion to Travis Tannahill, a good sign for the young quarterback who beat out Coffman, known more as a pure passer versus Klein's athleticism.

He also broke a 15-yard run on the drive. Inserting Klein into the lineup meant instant offense against Texas and Missouri the past two weeks, and the same looks like it's happening today.

Big 12 weekend review: Week 10

November, 8, 2010
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Best offensive player: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. Weeden completed a school-record 34 passes for a school-record 435 yards, pacing an offense that moved the ball for a school-record 725 total yards. Maybe you didn't notice, but not a lot of guys have had a day like that this year.

Best defensive player: Michael Hodges, LB, Texas A&M. Hodges was everywhere against Oklahoma, making 19 stops and a pair of sacks in the Aggies upset win that landed them in the top 25. Eight of his tackles were solo, too. Honorable mention: Tie, Tysyn Hartman, S, Kansas State and Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State. I'll spare you the wordplay on this one, but this pair of safeties both picked off Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert twice and racked up 93 yards of interception return yardage.

Best team performance: Oklahoma State. No competition here. The Cowboys dominated a good Baylor team on both sides of the ball and never let the Bears seriously threaten to win, scoring the game's first 34 points.

Best offensive freshman: James Sims, RB, Kansas. Sims rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries, but most importantly, his three of his fourth touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, helping Kansas complete its miracle comeback against Colorado.

Best defensive freshman: Tre Walker, LB, Kansas State. Walker made 11 tackles in the win over Texas to lead the Wildcats defense in stops.

Classiest gesture: Taylor Potts, QB, Texas Tech. After leading a Texas Tech comeback, Potts eschewed postgame interviews to make this speech to the media about what the team's jerseys on Saturday meant to him.

Best play: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. The only way Baylor was going to come back and beat Oklahoma State was with a big start to the second half. Blackmon was the one who got it, and last I checked, he didn't play for Baylor. The Cowboys faked a screen play and Weeden pitched to Blackmon, who raced down the left sideline for a 69-yard touchdown that put Oklahoma State up 31-0 seconds into the third quarter. Honorable mention: James Sims' game-winning 28-yard run in the final minute against Colorado. Honorable mention: Any of Texas A&M's three goal-line stands.

Best play II: Josh Cherry, K, Kansas State. Cherry had his extra point attempt on Kansas State's final touchdown blocked, but the kicker scooped up the ball and took it into the end zone for a two-point conversion.

Worst play: Daniel Kuehl, P, Iowa State. I'm sure Kuehl's effort on the game's final play was his best try, but if anyone did that in a game with friends at the park, they wouldn't live it down for decades.

Worst quarter: Colorado's fourth quarter. It started off innocently enough, with a touchdown on the first play to go up 45-17. By now, you probably know the rest. It wasn't very good.

Best game: Nebraska 31, Iowa State 30 (OT). The wind and Nebraska's quarterback injuries were big equalizers for the Cyclones, but Iowa State rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and nearly pulled off the play of the year in the Big 12 with Paul Rhoads' fake extra point attempt for the win.

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