The timing for North Texas could not be worse. Injuries and uncertainties at many positions leave them in unfavorable position heading into Baton Rouge for their season opener against LSU.

However, one position that is the envy of the rest of the country is their talented dynamic duo at running back in Jamario Thomas and Patrick Cobbs.

Both begin the season on the Maxwell Award watch list and they boast the distinction of being the NCAA rushing champions of the past two seasons. The only problem is how to distribute the carries.

Cobbs led the NCAA with 152.7 yards rushing a game in 2003 but was sidelined last season with various injuries. The slack was taken up by Thomas who rushed for 1,801 yards last season with 17 touchdowns. More tothe point, Thomas leapfrogged Cobbs' 2003 output by averaging 180.1 yards a game.

These outstanding talents will not go wasted. Thomas and Cobbs are even more important now with the developments that occurred at quarterback.

Scott Hall graduated after last season holding the school record in passing efficiency. Even with such a loss of skill and leadership, North Texas seemed poised for an easy transition. Joey Byerly saw action in 11 games last year and is a quarterback that can throw or run.

Unfortunately, Byerly could not outrun his academic troubles and will not be available this season.

Heading into fall camp, the race for quarterback was up for grabs. Daniel Meager was slated to be Byerly's backup after a shoulder injury kept him out in the spring. This allowed the gap to close.

Kellen Haynes and Matt Phillips are two younger players who have seen action this fall, and the decision could be made late this week.

The receivers will be comprised of Johnny Quinn. The junior led all Mean Green receivers last year with 49 catches for 773 yards and nine touchdowns. He will be joined by Zach Muzzy, who had 16 catches in 2004.

The offensive line is geared up and ready to create the holes that allow such success from the backfield. They are lead by Lombardi Watch list recipient Dylan Lindberry at right guard. Next to him will be Jeremy Brown at right tackle and Chad Rose at center. The left guard will be Jason Mayand left tackle will be Joel Foster. Even with the loss of Byerly, the offense looks to be capable.

They only wish the defense could say the same. Had the season began on August 22, North Texas would only have had two returning starters on defense. The defensive line lost all starters and injuries are plaguing the linebackers.

The secondary faces the same adversities as it must scramble to replace three starters. The defensive line will all be first time starters at their positions.

Even though their numbers indicate valuable experience. The defensive ends are led by Eli Hutchinson who recorded 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season and Jeremiah Chapman. Knocking on their door is true sophmore Blake Burress who has impressed in fall workouts. The nose tackle race is between Chris Miller and T.J. Raymond. A similar battle is between Sky Pruitt and Montey Stevenson at the other tackle. Brandon Monroe led the Mean Green in tackles last season but an injury will prevent him from showcasing his prowess against LSU.

Another linebacker, Shawn Early, had surgery in the spring but was going to be ready for the first game. Now, his condition leaves him questionable for Saturday.

That leaves Derek Mendoza to patrol the middle. Those vying for the remaining spots at linebacker are Philip Graves, who recorded 50 tackles last season, and transfer Travis Thompson. Maurice Holmes is another transfer but he is penciled in at Monroe's vacated spot.

The secondary will replace three starters but are led by returning corner T.J. Covington. The other corner will be manned by someone with game experience, just not at corner. Ja'Mel Branch played receiver for three years before switching to defense for his senior season. Deavin Cox is an impressive sophomore who could spell either corner during a game.

Two youngsters will play the safeties. Redshirt freshman Cliff Higgs and sophomore Roderick Cotton have the unpleasant task of replacing Jonas Buckles and Markeith Knowlton.

Nick Bazaldua will handle the kicking duties as he came off a successful 2004 where he led the Sun Belt in scoring, field goals per game, and field goal percentage. All this earned him a place on the Lou Groza Award watch list. He also looks as if he will punt.

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