NEW ORLEANS (7-25-05) - After leading the nation in rushing for the past two years, Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas were named Preseason Co-Offensive Players of the Year as North Texas was again predicted to win the conference title at the annual Sun Belt Conference Football Media Days.
The Mean Green accounted for nine selections to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Team and garnered all but one first-place vote in the preseason poll.
"It is an honor any time that we are picked to win the Sun Belt Conference," said head coach Darrell Dickey. "When your colleagues and the people who cover you vote for you it is a compliment to what we have accomplished, but is by no means an indication of what will happen this season. It is a tremendous challenge for us to continue the success that we have had over the past four years and provides a great motivation for our players."
Cobbs and Thomas will enter the backfield for North Texas as college football's first tandem of national rushing champions. The duo will lead the Mean Green in defense of its fifth consecutive conference title and bowl bid.
Cobbs led the nation in rushing and scoring in 2003 after scrambling for 152.7 yards and 11.5 points per game. In his first season as the starter, the senior set three North Texas single-season rushing records, and added his name to the career list of several others. The 2003 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, Cobbs will return to the Mean Green backfield after battling a series of season ending injuries in 2004.
The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in 2004, Thomas led the nation in rushing last season with 180.1 yards per game. Thomas set the NCAA freshman record for 200-yard games, going over that mark five times, and tied the NCAA record for the fastest to reach 1,000 yards when he made it in seven games. A candidate for All-America honors, the sophomore will share the backfield with Cobbs in 2005.
"There are a lot of great players in the Sun Belt and to have the opportunity to share this award with my teammate is a great honor," Cobbs said. "I'm really looking forward to playing with Jamario and doing whatever I can to help this team win games."
The Mean Green had a host of other players selected to the Preseason All-Sun Belt team. Johnny Quinn earned a spot on the list as a receiver and punt return specialist after a stellar 2004 season. Quinn led North Texas in receiving for the second straight season, hauling in 49 passes for 773 yards.
Dylan Lineberry was named to the preseason team after garnering conference Newcomer of the Year honors in 2004. After starting every game for the Mean Green last season, the senior is expected to be the anchor of the offensive line in 2005.
Place kicker Nick Bazaldua was named to the preseason team after taking the conference by storm in 2004. The senior was named first team all-conference after leading the league in field goals per game (1.57) and field goal percentage (11 of 12 for 91.7 percent).
On the defensive side of the ball, Brandon Monroe, T.J. Covington and Ja'Mel Branch were named to the preseason all-conference team. Monroe was second on the Mean Green in tackles with 62 and tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles.
Covington, the vocal leader of the Mean Green secondary, tied for fourth in the Sun Belt in fumble recoveries. The senior's 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown was the longest play of the season and helped clinch the win over Utah State.
Branch, a former all-conference punt returner and receiver, has moved to cornerback for 2005. The senior returns to the team after missing the 2004 season.
The Mean Green kick off the 2005 season at Louisiana State on Sept. 3, followed by the conference opener at Middle Tennessee on Sept. 10.