Northwestern State's football team already has an uphill battle to start its 2006 season, with two deeper, more polished, Division I-A teams kicking off the schedule.
With that in mind, it's clear what the I-AA power out of Natchitoches, La., didn't need: a pile of injuries to cast some doubt during the summer months.
NSU will play what is, so far, a relatively healthy Kansas University team on Sept. 2 at Memorial Stadium. If only the same could be said about the Demons, who had a large chunk of their depth chart sitting out the spring because of lingering injuries - some of which still aren't healed.
Demons coach Scott Stoker counted nine starters who sat out spring drills, and can only cross his fingers that everyone stays healthy throughout August.
"I hope we are (healthy)," he said after a pause. "I think we have a chance to be."
He doesn't seem to be as optimistic as he was in March, when he said in a press release: "None of the injuries are major. Nobody should miss any time in August."
Among those who were hurt is projected starting quarterback Ricky Joe Meeks, who suffered a broken tip of his throwing thumb during the spring. His top target, wide receiver Derrick Doyle, missed the spring due to injury, and the team's starting center, Mark Rabalais, wrecked his knee and missed the entire 2005 season.
And that's just on offense. Preseason I-AA All-American defensive end Ed Queen racked up 15 tackles in his first three games, but a sports hernia caused him to be shelved for the rest of the '05 season. In addition, I-AA All-American Tory Collins, a defensive tackle, sat out the spring with a shoulder injury after registering 59 tackles (14 for a loss) in 10 games last year.
Conference: Southland (Division I-AA). 2005 record: 5-5 (3-3 in conference). Versus Kansas: Never met.
Like any coach in college football, Stoker realizes that injury bouts really are out of his hands. So NSU's fifth-year coach doesn't spend too much time worrying about it, instead looking at who was able to compete in the spring and work out so far this summer.
"It's going good," said Stoker, a former NSU quarterback. "We've had a good summer. We had a lot of guys that didn't go through spring, but for the most part, everything has been going good."
The Demons have one claim to fame from an otherwise disappointing 2005 season - it was one of two I-AA teams to beat a I-A team last year, when it topped Louisiana-Monroe, 27-23, to open the '05 campaign.
In all, I-AA teams were 2-50 against I-A teams in '05, making NSU's win an interesting piece of college football trivia. The other was a 20-17 victory by UC-Davis over Stanford on Sept. 17, 2005.
Stoker and the Demons will try to do it again this season, and they'll have three opportunities: I-A games are scheduled at Baylor, at Mississippi and the first one, at Kansas on Sept. 2.
"Not a whole lot, to be honest with you," Stoker said of his familiarity with KU. "I know they were extremely good defensively last year. I know they lost a few guys, but I'm sure they reloaded just like all the rest of them do."