Eight Bulldogs earn Athlon Sports Preseason All-Conference USA honors

Photo of Louisiana Tech’s Tyler Grubbs by TOM MORRIS

LA Tech Athletics Communications

Louisiana Tech had eight players earn Preseason All-Conference USA honors by Athlon Sports, it was announced by the publication on Wednesday.

Freshman linebacker Tyler Grubbs and sophomore punt returner Smoke Harris earned first team honors, while senior linebacker Trey Baldwin and sophomore defensive back BeeJay Williamson earned second team accolades. Graduate transfer running back Marcus Williams Jr. and redshirt freshman kicker Jacob Barnes were named third team, and junior offensive lineman Joshua Mote and senior defensive lineman Willie Baker were named fourth team.

Grubbs was a FWAA, ESPN and 247Sports.com Freshman All-American. He was named first team all-Conference USA by both the league and Phil Steele while also earning a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman team. The New Orleans native registered a team-best 99 tackles and finished second on the team in both solo tackles (45) and tackles for loss (9.5). Grubbs opened the season with back-to-back double digit tackle performances with a career-high 16 tackles against Southern Miss (Sept. 19) and a 12-tackle outing against Houston Baptist (Sept. 26). He ended the 2020 campaign with a career-high 12 solo tackles against Georgia Southern at the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 23). Grubbs finished the season ranked second in C-USA and 25th in the FBS in tackles per game at 9.9, and he was sixth in C-USA in tackles for loss with 9.5.

Harris was named second team all-C-USA and Phil Steele All-Conference USA First Team as a punt returner in 2020. During the campaign, he averaged 21.50 yards per punt return after returning six punts for 129 total yards. The native of St. Francisville, had a career-long 60-yard punt return at the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 23). Harris totaled 463 all-purpose yards which was the third most on the team.

Baldwin was named second team all-C-USA and earned a spot on the Phil Steele All-Conference USA third team. The Orange, Texas, native finished the season second on the team with 85 total tackles, including a team-best 53 solo tackles. Baldwin posted a career-high 18 tackles, including 14 solo, at UTSA on Oct. 24. His 18 tackles tied for the 11th most nationally in the season, while his 14 solo tackles ranked second in the nation. He ranked first in C-USA and 11th in the FBS in solo tackles with 5.9 per game and was third in the conference in tackles per game at 9.4. Baldwin registered 7.0 tackles for loss, including 1.0 sacks, five pass breakups, one interception and one quarterback hurry during the 2020 campaign.

Williamson was named first team all-Conference USA by both the league and Phil Steele. The native of Dallas was third on the team with 56 total tackles, including 32 solo, while also registering 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, three interceptions, three pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble. Williamson recorded two interceptions against UAB and forced a fumble at the goal line to give LA Tech the game-winning possession. He registered multiple tackles in every game of the 2020 campaign.

Williams transferred to Louisiana Tech from App State where he appeared in 42 games and made six starts. The Rocky Mount, N.C., rushed for more than 500 yards in each of his four seasons played (2017-20). He finished his Appalachian State career with 2,216 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and had six career-games with 100-plus rushing yards. Williams appeared in eight games with two starts as senior in 2020, registering 503 rushing yards on 68 attempts for three touchdowns.

Barnes was a Lou Groza National Collegiate Place-Kicker Award Semifinalist, named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team, was an All-Conference USA Honorable Mention and earned a spot on the Phil Steele All-Conference USA Fourth Team. The native of Baton Rouge was a perfect 33-for-33 in PATs, including a career-best 9-for-9 against HBU (Nov. 26). He opened the season with eight straight made field goals, including a career-long 51-yarder against HBU. Barnes finished the season 12-for-14 in field goals, including the game-winning 35-yarder in double overtime against UAB (Oct. 31).

Mote was an all-Conference USA honorable mention in 2020 and earned a spot on the Phil Steele All-Conference USA Fourth Team. He was part of an offensive front that ranked first in C-USA and second in the FBS in fourth down conversions at 88.9 percent (16-of-18). The native of Oak Grove helped the offense rank fourth in C-USA and 53rd in the FBS in red zone offense at 84.6 percent (33-of-39). Mote assisted the offense in averaging 315.8 yards of total offense, including a 216.6 passing yard average and a 99.2 rushing yard average.

Baker was named an all-Conference USA honorable mention and all-Louisiana honorable mention in 2019 and was a member of ESPN’s all-Bowl team in 2018. In 2019, the New Roads, La., native appeared and started in 11 games where he led the team in tackles for loss with 10.0 and was ninth on the team with 51 total tackles. Baker recorded six or more tackles in five contests during the 2019 campaign, and was second on the team with five quarterback hurries.

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