Senior safety Ty Zimmerman emerged from the Kansas State locker room Saturday with a medical boot on his right foot and crutches underneath both arms, triggering memories of last season.
Against TCU, he suffered an injury to his right ankle while trying to make a tackle. Almost a full year earlier, he had a similar injury against the same team and missed the final two games of the regular season.
Only then, he didn’t publicly walk on crutches until the next week’s game, a 52-24 loss to Baylor in which K-State’s defense struggled without him. This time, the diagnosis appears worse.
Although K-State coach Bill Snyder didn’t provide a health update on Zimmerman at his weekly news conference Tuesday, citing his policy of not disclosing injuries, players spoke pessimistically about the status of their top defensive playmaker.
“I would like to dedicate my performance to all the seniors, especially Ty Zimmerman,” sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams said. “It was bad how it ended for him.”
Freshman fullback Glenn Gronkowski added: “He is a great player. No matter who it is, you don’t ever want to see that happen to anyone. It’s a huge loss.”
Zimmerman is expected to miss Saturday’s game against No. 22 Oklahoma and is unlikely to play against Kansas in the regular-season finale next week.
Zimmerman, a native of Junction City, Kan., has started 46 games in K-State’s secondary, won all-conference honors in his first three seasons and served as a team captain since the start of his junior year. Before his injury, he was on pace for a record senior season, making 69 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions.
His absence will be noticed against an offense that averages 236.4 rushing yards and uses multiple quarterbacks.
Still, K-State is hoping it can handle the loss of its top defensive back better than it did a year ago.
Back then, current starting safety Dante Barnett filled in for Zimmerman, and Baylor used his inexperience by beating him deep for a touchdown on the opening series.
Dylan Schellenberg, a junior with limited experience, took over Saturday for Zimmerman against TCU. He didn’t commit any glaring mistakes and made two tackles.
“I think everybody handled it well,” Barnett said. “(Zimmerman) went out early in the game, and that gave Schellenberg enough time to adjust to the game. We all got the chance to adjust to each other. I thought we played good. That will be very helpful. Anytime you can go into a game and get your feet wet it is helpful.”
TCU managed 348 yards and 31 points against K-State. Most of the Horned Frogs’ successful plays came on short, quick passes. But TCU’s David Porter beat Schellenberg for a 51-yard touchdown grab in the second half.
It will be up to other players to prevent big plays against Oklahoma, while Zimmerman watches.
“He means a lot. He is a leader to the defense,” Gronkowski said of Zimmerman. “Not just with his plays. He is vocal and he gets everyone in the right spot. He knows what he is doing. That is definitely a huge loss, but we have other players who can step up.”