LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State's offensive line has had players running in and out of the lineup since spring practice.
With less than two weeks until the season opener at Washington State, Aggies head coach Doug Martin believes the team has its top five up front, but at the moment that does not include three-year starter at left tackle Sage Doxtater, who has not been practicing with a shoulder injury.
"I'm counting on (Doxtater) not playing for right now," Martin said. "Hopefully we can get him back but right now, we have to focus on who is here."
For NM State offensive line coach Andy Richman, finding a group that can consistently play together in practice has been a challenge.
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"I think we feel locked into the five we have," Richman said. "They have to get the reps and gel. The left tackle has know what the left guard is doing and vice versa."
Junior college transfer center Eligah Hunter had his football career come to an end when a spinal condition was revealed prior to spring practice. Projected starting right tackle Blake Walker is likely out for the season with a stress fracture and backup tackle Evan Tafoya-Vallo suffered a season ending knee injury during fall camp.
"It's not the way you would want to start out," Richman said. "The one thing that is good is it forced us to move guys around and get valuable reps, whether that pays off for the rest of the season or the future."
New Mexico State quarterback Josh Adkins on season opener Wochit
One constant has been senior Brian Trujillo, who is slated to start at left tackle after playing up and down the offensive line throughout his career, but it's possible that the season opener will be the first start for three of the Aggies' five offensive linemen.
"I can move (Trujillo) around," Richman said. "We thought that he was going to be our center at one point and he has played mostly at guard the last two years. That versatility is exactly what we need right now."
Mayfield graduate and junior Jalen Guerrero would start at right tackle if the Aggies played today, Martin said.
"(Guerrero) came here as a tight end and he still needs work in the weight room, but from being a tight end, he has great feet and that can make up for a lot when you are young," Martin said.
If Doxtater does not play against Washington State, the NM State offensive line will feature four new starters. Redshirt senior Tony Bello will start at left guard with redshirt freshman Max Wilhite at center and redshirt freshman Austin Young at right guard.
The Aggies have better athletes in the offensive line two-deep, but there is a significant drop from the first group to the second in terms of experience.
"I like that (Wilhite) is smart and gets everything called," Richman said. "He has been consistent for us. He still has some things to work on, but he's young."
Projected NM State offensive line
Martin pays respects to Arkansas State coach
Prior to his weekly media comments, Martin took time to extend sympathies to Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson and his family.
Anderson's wife, Wendy, passed away due to cancer. Anderson has taken a leave of absence from the football program.
"I would like to start off and say that the football program extends its sympathies to Arkansas State," Martin said. "They are great people and they are in our thoughts."
Washington State is a 33-point favorite
New Mexico State opened as a 33-point underdog at Washington State for Week 1.
Sports Editor Jason Groves can be reached at email@example.com or 575-541-5459. Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves.