Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Ex-High Star Tillman Makes Strides for WU ; Tillman: Linebacker Coming off Five-Tackle Game vs. Northeastern

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Ex-High Star Tillman Makes Strides for WU ; Tillman: Linebacker Coming off Five-Tackle Game vs. Northeastern

Article excerpt

Like most freshmen, Washburn linebacker Austin Tillman entered the season not knowing how much playing time -- if any -- he would be seeing in his first year of college football.

His prospects for seeing the field looked bleak after sitting out the season opener, but it didn't take long for Washburn coach Craig Schurig to reach the decision that Tillman needed to play immediately.

The redshirt was taken off the former Topeka High star before Washburn's second game, and Tillman's playing time has steadily increased ever since.

"You like to redshirt all your freshmen, but he was someone we felt was just too valuable on special teams," Schurig said. "He's just a smart football player, too. This (season) will help him in his progress toward next year, all this playing time he's getting. He's an outstanding football player, and now he just has to gain the maturity and the strength and the size to be a consistent down-in and down-out player."

Tillman saw his most action of the season in Washburn's 42-7 win over Northeastern State last Saturday. He took advantage of the opportunity by recording an interception and logging a career-high five tackles with one tackle for loss.

"I'd get six plays one week, eight plays the next week and maybe 12 plays the week after," Tillman said. "Last week, I had 22 plays. It's just increasingly going up and up. We had a couple injuries in the linebacking corps, which allowed me to get a little more reps during practice and a little more playing time this last week to kind of show what I could do. I'm just ready for it to keep going up."

Tillman said he's getting more comfortable with each snap he takes for the Ichabods, who will close out the season against defending national champion Northwest Missouri State in The Fall Classic at 2 p.m. Saturday in Arrowhead Stadium.

"When I came in, it was way faster than high school and a little more than I expected," Tillman said. "But now, as it's coming toward the end of my freshman season, everything's starting to slow down a little bit. When I'm in there, I feel a lot more comfortable doing what I need to do. …

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