When talking about the 2009 Pittsburg State University football team’s defense, head coach Chuck Broyles has an air of confidence.

When talking about the 2009 Pittsburg State University football team’s defense, head coach Chuck Broyles has an air of confidence.
The reason ... the Gorillas return 11 players who started nine games or more in either 2007 or 2008 as well as a unit that returns seven All-MIAA performers — four in 2008 and three in 2007.
"I think, now knock on wood, but we could be as good as we have been in the past four or five years," Broyles said.
The Pitt State defense allowed just 23.5 points per game and 321.0 yards per game in 2008.
Helping to anchor that defensive unit will be Alex Kuhlman (6-foot-3, 202) at safety.
Kuhlman, a Ness City native, was twice named the MIAA Defensive Player of the Week last season and was a first-team All-MIAA and second-team All-American.
Senior strong safety Chadd Snyder (6-1, 195) comes back at strong safety. Snyder was the Gorillas’ top returning tackler from the 2008 season as he logged 67 stops, two interceptions and a team-high eight pass breakups.
Pitt State will also welcome back veteran cornerback Bryan McMurtery, who missed the 2008 season due to injury.
An All-MIAA performer in 2007, McMurtery picked up 43 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups two seasons ago.
A trio of redshirt players also help the Gorilla defense as Elijah Olabode (5-9 186), Daron Love (6-1, 186) and Jacob Catloth (6-0, 189).
The secondary also has the benefit of having junior David Vaughn (5-10, 182) at corner and senior Dustin Heckroth (6-1, 193), who will see significant time at safety.
“Our secondary is a very experienced group,” Broyles said. “They will collectively play a key role in the success of our defensive unit.”
The Gorillas have to find a replacement for last season's leading tackler in Morgan, who had 106 total tackles — including 16 for loss.
That role now falls to senior Antonio Graham and Western Washington transfer Caleb Jessup.
Jessup, a casualty of the Vikings cutting their football program, led Western Washington's defense with 128 tackles as a linebacker.
He was first-team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference and second-team All-Region.
In addition, the Gorillas also have the services of seniors Craig Durfee (6-0, 206) and Caleb Pazzie (5-11, 225) along with Northeastern Oklahoma transfer Johnny Row (6-1, 223).
On the outside, All-MIAA performers Zack Langston (6-3, 224) and Spencer Worthington (6-2, 227) lead the outside linebacking corps.
Langston returns after battling injuries in 2008 while Worthington, an All-MIAA performer last season as a redshirt freshman had 40 tackles for the Gorillas in 2008.
Senior Jeremy Jackson comes back after a redshirt season along with senior Chris Swartz (5-11, 200) and sophomore Luke Stringer (6-4, 229).
On the front line, the Gorillas return three starters on the line — defensive ends Jordan Karr (6-3, 255) and Brock Lohr (6-2, 243) and nose guard Mike Roberts (6-0, 275).
Kar and Roberts were both All-MIAA honorees in 2008 while Lohr had 20 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Senior Rashad Pittman (6-2, 274), who was an All-MIAA performer in 207 comes back from a redshirt season. Sophomore J.R. Jones (6-1, 323) also looks to see playing time on the line.
“We are pleased with both our talent and depth with our defensive linemen,” Broyles said. “This is another area where we are counting on senior leadership to help our defensive success.
“Overall, we like the makeup of our defense. We are entering our third year of running a ‘30-front’ defense and we’ve made progressive gains with our unit over the past two seasons. We think we that can be the case again this fall.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140. Follow Morning Sun sports at twitter.com/mssports.