UAPB Football Named 10 To SWAC Preseason All-Conference


Birmingham, AL.- As the 2021 Fall Season is near, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff football team’s spring campaign has helped capture 11 selections for the Preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference All-Conference team.

The Golden Lions finished last spring with 10 selections for All-Conference while head coach Doc Gamble was named SWAC & HBCU National Coach of the Year.

The Western Division champions had a 4-1 record in the spring, ending their regular season undefeated (first since 1937) and appearing in their first SWAC Championship since 2012.

First-team selections include OL Mark Evans II, WR Josh Wilkes, LB Kolby Watts, DB Jalon Thigpen, and RS Tyrin Ralph. Ralph was also selected for second-team honors as a receiver, which also features QB Skyler Perry, OLs Noah Hayes and Atondre Smith, LB Isaac Peppers, and K Zack Piwnickzka.

Evans earned first-team All-SWAC honors the past two seasons, contributing to an offense that allowed the fewest sacks in the conference (six) in 183 pass attempts. The offense ranks third in the league in touchdown passes with 14 as the offense gained 370.8 yards per game in scoring 30+ points three times, including season-high 48 points at Grambling.

Wilkes ranked third in the SWAC in receiving yards (341), ranked second in TD receptions (six), and finished 4th in receptions (25), catching at least one touchdown pass in every game this season. He had a season-high-tying six receptions for season-high 131 yards and one touchdown at Grambling and tied a career-high with two touchdown receptions vs. Prairie View A&M.

Watts made a team-high 36 tackles with one sack, 8.0 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and one pass breakup. Watts made a season-high tying nine tackles, a career-high 4.0 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and one pass breakup against Prairie View A&M, and made nine tackles with one tackle for loss at Southern. In the SWAC Championship, Watts recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against Alabama A&M.

Thigpen led the SWAC and tied for first in the FCS in interceptions with five picks, returning one for a touchdown while leading the SWAC in pass breakups (seven) while ranking third on the team in tackles (28). He made a career-high two interceptions along with six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and one pass breakup against Prairie View A&M. Thigpen made a season-high eight tackles and returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown at Grambling.

Ralph was named second-team FCS All-American as a returner after he led the SWAC and is third in the FCS in all-purpose yards with 892 yards (178.40 ypg), is first in the FCS in combined kick returns (589 yards), led the SWAC in punt returns (17.5 ypr), and led the SWAC and is tied for 9th in the FCS in kickoff returns (27.1 ypr). Ralph gained a career-high 279 all-purpose yards at Miss. Valley St. (142 punt return yards on five returns, including a game-winning 77-yard return for TD; 85 kick return yards on four returns, and 61 receiving yards on four receptions.) Ralph posted a career-high 100 receiving yards and a touchdown against Prairie View A&M. In the SWAC Championship, Ralph went 81 yards on a kick return touchdown against Alabama A&M.

Perry ranked second in the SWAC in TD passes (13) and second in passing yards (1,236) and has also rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns, and caught one pass for 17 yards. Perry threw multiple touchdown passes in every game this season. He passed for 201 yards and accounted for a career-high five touchdowns (career-high-tying four passing / one rushing) in the West Division title win over Prairie View. Perry completed 18 of 30 passes for a career-high 346 yards, and a career-high four touchdown passes at Grambling St.

Hayes manned the right tackle position on the offensive line that yielded only six sacks in 184 pass attempts (fewest in the SWAC) while protecting Perry’s blindside for an offensive unit that gained 370.8 yards per game. The offense scored in 13 of 16 quarters this season.

Smith helped anchor the left side of the line that paved the way for the Golden Lions to finish third in the SWAC in total offense yards. The offense finished the season with 1,854 total offense yards and gave up the fewest sacks.

Peppers ranked second in the SWAC and led the team in sacks (7.5 sacks), is second on the team with 33 tackles, led the SWAC in forced fumbles (three), and led the team and ranks second in the SWAC in tackles for loss with 9.0. He recorded six tackles, with a career-high 3.5 sacks and a career-high 4.0 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble against Prairie View A&M.

Piwniczka tied for second in PAT makes with 19 out of 22 attempts. Piwniczka made three of five attempted field goals and tallied 28 total points for the season, the third most in the SWAC.

The Golden Lions announced that fans can now purchase season and single-game tickets for the upcoming season. The reigning Southwestern Athletic Western Division Champions will play five games at Simmons Banks Field.