Pitt State to take on Central Oklahoma without some key players
While the Pittsburg State football team has some questions regarding its defensive secondary, returning seven starters seems to be overriding that issue.
When the Gorillas take the field against Central Oklahoma on Saturday, they will be without defensive end Rashad Pittman, who will miss the season opener because of an offseason knee surgery.
In addition, seniors Jeremy Jackson and Brian McMurtery will also miss the season opener at Edmond, Okla.
But, first year defensive coordinator Dave Weimers is focusing on the positive.
“I learned a long time ago that you really can’t worry about the ones that aren’t playing,” Weimers said. “You have to get the ones ready that are and, we could certainly use every guy but we don’t have that option and look at what we have and make sure that they are ready to play.”
Those positives include having Rusty Morgan back at linebacker. Morgan finished second on the team in 2007 in tackles with 66, including 32 solo.
Austin Cartright will be with Morgan at inside linebacker. Cartright had 38 tackles last season and added two quarterback sacks to the tally.
“I really like our linebacker group,” Weimers said. “If they walk in a room they are not really going to stand out but you can give me those guys all day long.
“They will play hard and they will be smart and, hopefully, they will go out and take the things that we have taught them and apply that.”
On the outside, senior Brett Shamblin and junior Zack Langston will see time for the Gorillas. Shamblin had 20 solo tackles in 2007 with one interception while Langston returns from an All-MIAA honorable mention campaign last season after recording 52 tackles with 10 for loss.
Chadd Snyder, a converted free safety, moved to the position after playing quarterback during spring drills.
Alex Kuhlman returns after three starts in 2007 at strong safety. Kuhlman had one interception to go with his 38 tackles last season.
Against Central Oklahoma on Saturday, the Gorillas will see variations of the spread offense, which will provide a big test for Pitt State, especially in the secondary and with the cornerbacks.
Redshirt freshman Caleb Sanders, another convert, moved from tailback to cornerback in the spring, will join sophomore David Vaughn on the corner.
That leaves a little inexperience at the corner position.
“It is hard to play defense right now when you see so many different things,” Weimers said. “With the spread offense, they will get you in more one-on-one situations and if forces you to play great zone defense and play with a lot faster players and that is one of the reasons why we are in this type of defense.”
He said that while the Gorillas may not be a ‘man’ team at this point, the depth is better than even he realizes.
“We have to see it yet but we have to play,” Weimers said.
At the end position, junior Brock Lohr, who had 21 tackles and one quarterback sack a year ago, will play along side junior Jordan Karr, who will take Pittman’s position.
At nose guard, Mike Roberts returns after logging 33 tackles — including 12 solo and three for loss.
“We are going to stay with the three-man front because it did not make much sense to change it,” Weimers said. “The defensive line are not all necessarily three-front players but we are going to need those guys step up.”
But missing five of the top eight tacklers from last season is something that sticks in the back of Weimer’s mind.
“We just want them all to play as hard as they can,” Weimers said. “We want them to play with emotion and passion for the game and the guys that we have out there will do that.”
Throughout drills, there is one word that Weimers has used repeatedly.
“Some days it looks like we don’t have that,” Weimers said. “I really don’t think that you can get a gauge of that until you play and find out who really wants to get it done.
“I think we have potential and to have tenacity you have to have talent and good players and we’re getting a lot closer to that.”
Morning Sun writer Matthew Clark can be reached at email@example.com or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140