The clichés are as numerous as the rushing yards at North Texas.
|Patrick Cobbs led the nation in rushing yards in 2003. (AP)|
"To me I could really care less if Jamario started," said Cobbs, the nation's leading rusher in 2003.
"They can put me on special teams -- punts, kickoffs -- so I can get touches," said Thomas, the nation's leading rusher in 2004.
But, really, how does coach Darrell Dickey handle this first-time situation? It is believed that no Division I coach has ever had back-to-back national rushing leaders return.
Cobbs, a senior, won the title running for 157.2 yards per game in '03. Injuries knocked him out early last season, allowing Thomas to lead the country with 1,801 yards as a true freshman in '04. His five, 200-yard games as a freshman were an NCAA record.
Now the No. 1 question in Denton for '05 is who starts? There are egos, careers, teammates and futures to consider.
"That question started around at the end of last year," Dickey said. "We knew we had something pretty special. People kept saying, 'What are you going to do next year?'
"I said, 'We'll worry about that when the time comes.'"
Well, the future is just about now. North Texas kicks off Sept. 3 at LSU with no clear definition of the running backs' roles. Dickey calls then "1 and 1A" as starters but clearly there are going to be issues, even if they remain unspoken.
"It hasn't really been brought to the table yet," Cobbs said.
Dickey says the pair will, at times, play together in the backfield. One guy could get hot and stay in for long periods of time. Cobbs played special teams earlier in his career and knows his pro prospects probably lie there, so he might be returning kicks as well.
One thing is fairly certain: There literally won't be enough carries to go around this year. Cobbs averaged 28 per game in '03. Thomas had 28.5 per game last year. If the pair split last year's 491 team carries in half, they'd each get slightly more than 22. If that's the case, most likely neither will be able to add another rushing title in '05.