In anticipation of two-a-days tomorrow, MeanGreenSports.com breaks down the 2005 North Texas football team position by position. Today we look at the last line of defense, The Mean Green Secondary.
Replacing three of the four secondary starters from last season will be a monumental task for the Mean Green. But with the return of Preseason All-Sun Belt cornerbacks TJ Covington and Ja'Mel Branch, the defensive backfield will be in good hands in 2005.
The vocal leader of the secondary, TJ Covington returns for his senior season after a stellar 2004 campaign. Armed with blazing speed, Covington made 40 tackles last season as well as two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Covington was fourth in the Sun Belt in fumble recoveries, and made the record books by returning a fumble for a touchdown for over 100 yards against Utah State.
After missing the 2004 season, Ja’Mel Branch returns to the Mean Green on the opposite side of the ball. Branch was one of top receivers on the team for his first three seasons at North Texas but will make the transition to cornerback for his senior year. Branch was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the year in 2001 and was an all-conference selection in 2002.
Deavin Cox saw plenty of action in his freshman year and even made a start last year against Baylor. With one of the top vertical leaps on the team, Cox could figure into the lineup at some point this year.
Transfer Gary Oubre fits well into North Texas' scheme during spring drills and could challenge for playing time as well.
For the first time in four years the Mean Green secondary will be without perennial all-conference safeties Jonas Buckles and Markeith Knowlton. Buckles was the only player in Sun Belt history to be selected to the all-conference team in four consecutive years, and Knowlton led the team in interceptions for the past two seasons.
Up to the challenge of replacing the duo will be Cliff Higgs and Roderick Cotton. Higgs, a redshirt freshman, will be handed the reins at strong safety and looked impressive in spring drills. At 6-1, 222-pounds, the Sanger, Texas product will be an imposing presence in the secondary. Ricardo Smith will contest with Higgs for the job at strong safety.
Cotton saw action in nine games last season and recorded six tackles for the Mean Green. An interception in the Green-White game capped off a stellar spring for the sophomore. Fellow sophomore Cass Starks will provide depth at free safety.
Often overlooked, North Texas special teams have proved the difference for the Mean Green. Tomorrow, MeanGreenSports.com takes a look at the game breakers on special teams.