September 30, 2008

Hartman eases into new safety duties

Typically, a freshman playing his first game at a new position and just his fourth overall is fairly timid, worrying about not blowing an assignment or costing his team points. He isn't usually one to shake things up, stir the pot or take risks capable of sending him on a direct flight to his coach's doghouse. But don't try telling that to Kansas State's Tysyn Hartman, who took one of his head coach's favorite phrases to another level last Saturday.

"Bold and daring" is a mantra K-State head coach Ron Prince claims to live by, and Hartman has undoubtedly been subject to the term more times than he can count. So, with some help from the rest of the Wildcats' punting unit, the 6-foot-3 Wichita product decided to put his own spin on the phrase last Saturday.

So with his team ahead of Louisiana, a Sun Belt conference opponent, by just five points late in the game's the final quarter, and the ball resting inside K-State territory, Hartman decided running the punt his coaching staff had called was optional, audibling into the very same fake that was so narrowly successful in the Wildcats' last outing, a loss at Louisville.

"I was a little nervous, but we needed big plays and we needed somebody to step up," Hartman said. "Yeah, (my neck was) kind of (on the line), but special teams coach (Jeff Rodgers) gave me the green light to do it, so I guess his was too."

Of course, the outcome of Hartman's dip into the world of "bold and daring" has been well documented. For a second straight week the play was successful. Once again, Hartman carried the ball safely across the first-down marker, setting the stage for a field goal that put the game away.

Still, this wasn't checking from a draw into a sweep, this decision had major implications.

"Tysyn is a true grit kid," said senior defensive lineman Ian Campbell. "We don't practice things to not ever do it. If a coach says you have the go-ahead to do something, you have to have the moxie to do it, and he does."

If Campbell's description of Hartman as a gritty, gutsy player is accurate, the freshman's shift from quarterback to safety couldn't have come at a better time, as the ultimate gut check for a struggling K-State defense is about to storm into town.

If there was ever a perfect time to show some heart …

Texas Tech and the high-powered offense it carries with it will arrive in Manhattan just days from now, and stopping one of the nation's top passing attacks is going to take some gusto. But Hartman, who played sparingly in his first game at safety last Saturday, will likely see increased playing time at the position due to the arrest and ensuing suspension of fellow defensive back Gary Chandler, and transforming into a solid mainstay of the K-State secondary, especially this weekend, is going to take more than some athletic ability and a lot of guts.

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