North Texas ready for title run with two championship QBs

Updated: August 12, 2003, 6:43 PM ET

DENTON, Texas -- North Texas isn't lacking a championship quarterback. The Mean Green actually have two of them.

Scott Hall led UNT to its first Sun Belt Conference title in 2001. Then Hall tore a pectoral muscle before last season's opener and freshman Andrew Smith helped the Mean Green defend their league title and even win a bowl game for the first time in 56 years.

So, who will be in charge this year? Both, says sixth-year coach Darrell Dickey.

"A lot of people think we have a quarterback controversy. I don't really see it as that," Dickey said. "We're going to play who gives us the best chance every snap, like we do at every other position on the field. We do have a very unique situation."

North Texas is also in good shape at running back despite the departure of Kevin Galbreath, the only runner in school history with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Patrick Cobbs takes over as the featured back after 1,160 yards and 11 TDs in a reserve role the past two seasons.

"Patrick has been very capable since the day he got here," Dickey said. "In fact, during two-a-days his freshman year, it was a very close decision as to who was starting, Kevin or Patrick. When Patrick goes in, he's productive."

The Mean Green have to replace receiver George Marshall, but junior Ja'Mel Branch is a versatile threat (384 yards receiving, 192 rushing) who had six touchdowns last season.

Eight starters are back on the defense that was ninth in Division I-A, allowing 290 yards a game, and third in scoring defense (14.8 ppg).

Brandon Kennedy was the Sun Belt's top defensive player last season. The 300-pound nose guard had 25 tackles for losses and 10 sacks.

Linebackers Taylor Casey (117 tackles) and Chris Hurd (91 tackles) are both back, as is Cody Spencer, who missed five games last season because of an elbow injury.

"They play with a lot of intensity," Dickey said. "We've got some guys that are really serious about football on that side of the ball."

North Texas has won 11 straight Sun Belt games, the second-longest conference winning streak in the nation behind Miami's 24 in a row in the Big East.

But the Mean Green will again have to get through a tough non-conference schedule after losing five such games each of the last two seasons. They open Aug. 30 at Oklahoma and play Baylor, Air Force and Arkansas.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index