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Updated: August 22, 2003, 2:13 AM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Steve Mullins probably deserved serious consideration for Gulf South Conference coach of the year in 2002 for carrying Arkansas Tech through a difficult season.

The Wonder Boys had one offensive starter and two on defense play all 11 games as injuries decimated just about every position. Despite that, Arkansas Tech went 4-7 and it lost three games by a combined 15 points, including a 31-24 loss to conference champion Valdosta State.

"I just have to feel like we won't go through the injuries like we did last year," Mullins said. "It was a constant rotation for us last year. We feel like that's behind us."

Tommy Edwards was a bright spot for Arkansas Tech, earning all-conference awards for his play at defensive end and punter. He led the conference in punting with a 40.8-yard average, but his most impressive numbers were on defense.

He led the team with 92 tackles, led the conference with 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and he was second with 24 tackles for a loss. Edwards, who led Harrison to a state championship, was second-team on the AP's Little All-America squad and he's on just about every preseason list in the nation.

"It's very unusual to have an all-conference player at two different positions," Mullins said.

Edwards (6-3, 235 pounds) led a defense that helped give the Wonder Boys a chance to win despite an offense that averaged a conference-worst 14.6 points per game. Arkansas Tech finished fourth in the league by giving up 23 points a game.

A strong linebacker corps lines up behind Edwards this season, with middle linebacker Brett Hobbs from Springdale leading the way. Hobbs made 71 tackles and two sacks last year.

He'll be joined by freshman Cedric Cursh from Foreman at outside linebacker. Juniors Keith Gage and Cedric Flemons, who has missed the past two seasons with injuries, are battling for the other outside spot.

Mark Ewersmann did as much as a freshman quarterback could do thrown into the situation last year. He completed 61 of 141 passes for 633 yards with seven interceptions and four touchdowns.

In the spring, junior Kyle Barkley beat out Ewersmann for the starting role. Barkley, a junior college transfer, earned a medical redshirt after hurting his shoulder in two games in 2002.

Three starters return in the offensive line, including left tackle Kyle Jackson, the only offensive player to survive all 11 games. Center Eric Featherston and right guard Jonathan Hayes are the other two returning starters.

Arkansas Tech opens the season on Aug. 28 at Midwestern State. The Wonder Boys take road trips this season to Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama.

"We're looking forward to being road warriors," Mullins said.

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