By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Putting an offensive line together is a challenge almost every year.
But Killeen running backs Naaman Young and Daniel McCants only need a second.
Since the start of spring football workouts, the Kangaroos have been piecing together an offensive line to replace the graduation-depleted one that blocked for nearly 3,700 yards and 48 touchdowns last year.
"I think we've found six or seven linemen, of course they're not the big, 300-pounders, but they're big-hearted kids and they'll get in front of people," Killeen coach Sam Jones said.
Killeen also has to surround junior safety Deric Robertson in the defensive secondary and find a handful of replacements along the defensive line, specifically a pair of ends to replace Derriel Collins and Artrez Price who combined for 25 of the Roos' 36 sacks last season.
"(We're looking to) replace our offensive line - that's always a question when you have four high schools," Jones said. "And just to get our kids more physical to get ready for the grind and I think that's what we've done.
"This is the time of year we do quite a bit of banging on each other and then we try to preserve them the rest of the year."
While the Roos have holes to fill, they also have rising, returning talent, especially on offense.
Sophomore quarterback Garrett Gaskamp threw for more than 1,800 yards and 13 touchdowns with just eight interceptions last year after stepping into the big shoes of former three-year starter Michael Cummings (Kansas).
"I expect him to be better, of course, because he's got 13 games that he didn't have the year before ... and improve more on the throwing and just making decisions," Jones said of Gaskamp. "After the experience, you kind of expect that. You hope that he can take some of the pressure off himself because he's been there and just relax and let him play."
Running backs Young and McCants also dazzled in their varsity debuts, helping Killeen to an 8-5 record and an appearance in a regional quarterfinal, its deepest playoff run since 2008.
Young, a junior who was Killeen's No. 3 back at the start of last season, ran for 786 yards and a team-best 13 touchdowns while McCants, a sophomore, ran for 321 yards and two touchdowns all in the Roos' three playoff games.
But whether that talent can continue to produce in its ride to Class 5A like it did last season largely depends on the offensive line.
Junior tight end Akeem Harrison is the only returning starter from last year's line, though juniors Chris Tolle and Elika Sailiata also saw plenty of playing time.
"Offensive line's always going to be a challenge," Jones said. "I think the other spots are not as challenging because we always have kids that can move and run and get after people. If they'll do that, most of the time, we're going to be OK."
The Roos' defense, star-studded with seniors, surrendered less than 256 yards and 20 points per game last year. While seniors like Collins and Price stood out, others were contributing as well giving Killeen depth on defense to rely on this year.
"We've had several kids step up, like (linebacker) Trent Hines played quite a bit last year and came in and relieved some of them," Jones said. "And then you have Jeffrey Banks, who was another defensive end. I know the other two stand out - Price and Collins - because they had such a great year, but Banks was there and (Arthur) McIntosh.
"It's a different type of defense," he added. "We're still going to be quick, I think. We'll all be able to run, we'll be all over the field. ... It's the same type of kids that we had last year, same type of motor - they can all run, they can all get around the football - just new names."
Springing into action
A look at each area team's strengths and
weaknesses heading into spring football games
Wednesday: Copperas Cove