PINE BLUFF, Ark. – A total of 10 University of Arkansas At Pine Bluff football players earned 2020 Phil Steele Magazine’s Preseason All Southwestern Athletic Conference football honors.
OL Mark Evans II and Atondre Smith, WR Harry Ballard III, and DB Shawn Steele earned first team honors, with Steele also earning four-team FCS Preseason All-America honors. RB KeShawn Williams, DL Xavier Mitchell, and LB Kolby Watts earned second team honors, and WR DeJuan Miller and P Myles Pini earned third team honors. Tyrin Ralph was named to all three teams, as he was selected as first-team punt returner, second team all-purpose player, and third-team kickoff returner.
Left tackle Evans (6-4, 295; Jr., Houston, Texas) and left guard Smith (6-3, 320; Sr., DeSoto, Texas) anchored the line, as the offense posted seven 30+ point scoring games, including back-to-back 50-point games vs. Alabama A&M (52-34) and Langston (53-9). The offense also had eight games of at least 400 yards total offense, including three 500+ yard games (519 at Tennessee St., 532 vs. Lane, 541 vs. Texas Southern), and one 600+ yard game (645 at Alabama A&M) while allowing the second-fewest sacks in the conference (18).
Ballard III (6-3, 205; Sr., St. Louis, Mo.) was fourth in the conference in both receptions (52) and receiving yards (938), and was fifth in touchdown receptions. He posted five 100-yard receiving games, and caught touchdowns in six games, including three multi-TD games. Ballard caught five passes for a season-high 147 yards and two touchdowns against Langston, and had a season-high nine receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns against Grambling.
Steele (5-11, 180; Sr., Arlington, Texas) was tied for fifth in the SWAC in interceptions (three), and first in the league in both pass breakups (15) and passes defended (18). He had four games of multiple pass breakups, including back-to-back games with three pass breakups at Tennessee St. and vs. Southern. Steele recorded 46 tackles (36 solo), with 2.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, and one blocked kick on the season.
Ralph (5-8, 170; Sr., New Orleans, La.) was the SWAC’s most dynamic returner in 2019, as he led the SWAC in punt returns averaging 10.5 yards on 14 attempts while averaging nearly 28 yards on nine kickoff returns. Ralph had four punt returns of at least 20 yards, and seven kickoff returns of at least 20 yards. He also caught 27 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns and rushed four times for 35 yards.
Williams (5-10, 195; R-Sr., Pine Bluff, Ark.) was off to a dynamic start to the 2019 season before missing the final seven games due to injury. He rushed 49 times for 349 yards and three touchdowns, caught six passes for 55 yards, and averaged 21.9 yards on 10 kickoff returns. His season was highlighted by a career-high tying 21 carries for career-best 180 yards at Alabama A&M in a contest in which he also caught three passes for 18 yards, and returned two kickoffs for 74 yards.
Mitchell (6-2, 245; R-Jr., New Orleans, La.) started every game last season and was second on defensive line with 48 tackles (20 solo), tied for team lead in sacks (5.0), tied for second in tackles for loss (10.0) and had one forced fumble and one pass breakup. Mitchell recorded at least ½ sack four of the last five games and had a pair of seven tackle games vs. Southern and vs. Grambling.
Watts (6-0, 205; Sr., DeSoto, Tex.) set career highs in every category in 2019, finishing tied for second on the team in total tackles (64), fourth in solo tackles (32), and second in tackles for loss (10.5) along with 2.5 sacks and one pass breakup. He had four 10-tackle games, including career-best nine solo tackles, 1.0 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss at TCU.
Miller (6-2 ,184; Jr., Belle Glade, Fla.) was second on team in receptions (43/t-8th SWAC), receiving yards (779/7th SWAC), and receiving touchdowns (seven/t-7th SWAC), recording had six games of 88+ receiving yards including two 100-yard receiving games. Miller had six games with at least one touchdown reception, including a touchdown catch in each of the last five games.
Pini (6-0, 180; So., Queensland, Australia) was third in the SWAC last season with 21 punts downed inside the 20 yard line and led the league in forced fair catches with 22. Pini averaged 36.9 yards on 57 punts with only one touchback, highlighted by a season-best 46.3 yards on four punts with season-high three 50+ yards punts vs. Lane.