PINE BLUFF, Ark. — University of Arkansas At Pine Bluff head football coach Doc Gamble, along with OL Mark Evans II, DB Jalon Thigpen, and RS Tyrin Ralph highlight a school-record 10 selections to the Spring 2021 Southwestern Athletic Conference All-Conference team.
Gamble was named SWAC Coach of the Year, while Evans, Thigpen, and Ralph were named first-team selections. A total of six players earned second-team All-SWAC honors: QB Skyler Perry, OL Noah Hayes, WR Josh Wilkes, TE Jeremy Brown, and LBs Kolby Watts and Isaac Peppers.
Gamble led the Golden Lions to the program’s second undefeated season ever and first since 1937 (7-0-3), and to the first SWAC Western Division title since 2012. UAPB turned back the clock to the 2012 SWAC Championship season in 2021, defeating Southern, Grambling, and Prairie View A&M in the same season for the first time since 2012.
Evans (6-4, 295; Jr., Houston, Texas) earned first-team All-SWAC honors for the second straight season, anchoring a unit that again allowed the second-fewest sacks in the conference (four) in 150 pass attempts. The offense ranks third in league in touchdown passes with 12 as the offense gained 382.5 yards per game in scoring 30+ points three times, including season-high 48 points at Grambling.
Thigpen (6-1, 185: Sr., Laurel, Miss.) leads the SWAC and is tied for second in the FCS in interceptions with four picks, returning one for a touchdown while leading the SWAC in pass breakups (seven) while ranking third on team in tackles (25). 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 touchdown at Grambling.
Ralph (5-8, 170; R-Sr., New Orleans, La.) leads the SWAC and is third in the FCS in all-purpose yards with 727 yards (181.8 ypg), is second in the FCS in combined kick returns (461 yards), leads the SWAC and is 3rd in FCS in punt returns (17.5 ypr), and leads the SWAC and is tied for 9th in the FCS in kickoff returns (26.9 ypr). Ralph gained a career-high 279 all-purpose yards at Miss. Valley St. (142 punt return yards on five returns, including game-winning 77-yard return for TD; 85 kick return yards on four returns, and 61 receiving yards on four receptions.)
Perry (6-3, 215; Jr., New Orleans, La.) ranks second in the SWAC in TD passes (12) and third in passing yards (1,005) and has also rushed for 145 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 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.
Hayes (6-5, 305; R-So., Oxon Hill, Md.) manned the right tackle position on the offensive line that yielded only four sacks in 150 pass attempts while protecting Perry’s blind side for an offensive unit that gained 382.5 yards per game. The offense scored in 13 of 16 quarters this season.
Wilkes (6-3, 185; R-Sr., Rockhill, S.C.) ranks third in the SWAC in receiving yards (293), is tied for second in TD receptions (five), and ranks 6th in receptions (19), 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.
Brown (6-3, 215; R-Sr., Ruston, La.) caught six passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns this season. He had season highs with two receptions for 59 yards and a career-high tying two touchdowns at Grambling.
Watts (6-0. 205; Sr, DeSoto, Texas) made a team-high 29 tackles with one sack, 5.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 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.
Peppers (6-0, 205, Jr., Greenville, Miss.) is second on the team with 27 tackles, leads the SWAC in forced fumbles (three), ranks second in the league with 5.5 sacks, and is fourth in tackles for loss with 6.5. 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.
The Golden Lions (4-0 overall, 4-0 SWAC) will face the Eastern Division Champion Alabama A&M Bulldogs (4-0, 3-0) Saturday in the Cricket Wireless SWAC Football Championship Game presented by Pepsi Zero Sugar at 2 p.m. in Jackson, Miss.
The game will be televised on ESPN2 and on the ESPN App. The UAPB Sports Network Radio Broadcast begins at 1 p.m. on KPBA FM 99.3 The Beat in Pine Bluff; KARN 920 AM The Sports Animal in Little Rock; Sirius XM ESPNU Radio Ch. 84, on the OpenMic Broadcast Network and on the UAPB Athletics App.