Rogers Heritage offensive line coach Jason Upton is still searching for a fifth starter as spring practice comes to a close, but he’s in much better shape than a year ago.
This time last year, Upton was only sure about one spot in his starting offensive line. That was senior Hunter Chasteen. Now, he’s only looking for Chasteen’s replacement at left tackle.
Kevin Merlos, who will be a senior in the fall, takes over the reins from Chasteen as a leader of the group. In addition, Noah Madryga started as a sophomore and is penciled in for the fall.
Brandon DeMello , who started the final game of the season at North Little Rock, is also a likely starter at tackle. Matt Reading is a returning starter at center, but has been slowed in spring practice by a foot injury. That has allowed Upton to take a good look at rising freshman Vicente Guerrero (5-7, 263 pounds).
Junior-to-be D.J. Borman is getting a look at Chasteen’s left tackle spot, but Upton said he has a couple of options.
“I could move Madryga to that spot and give Vicente a look at guard,” Upton said. “We need taller, athletic guys to play the tackles when we can find them.”
Upton likes the aggressiveness he’s seen from Merlos and DeMello, but he’d like to see more from Madryga and Reading.
“They know what they’re doing now and now it’s time to get better at it,” Upton said.
Upton also mentioned Alex McCoy and Ricardo Cardenas, who will both be juniors, as solid backups, along with rising freshman Stone Airoso.
“McCoy and Cardenas are both better than where Madryga was this time last year,” Upton said.
Upton said the added depth is definitely different from a year ago when the War Eagles felt it when Merlos missed the final three games of the season with a knee injury.