Three Lumberjacks earn preseason first-team All-Southland honors.
July 17, 2013
Six Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks have been named to seven spots on the 2013 Preseason All-Southland Conference team announced league officials Wednesday afternoon. The 'Jacks also had three players receive first-team honors which include running back Gus Johnson, receiver D.J. Ward and defensive end Darren Robinson.
In addition to the first-team selections, receiver Michael Brooks and lineman Andrew Ratliff were named to the second-team offense, while Brooks also earned second-team recognition as the punt returner. Senior safety Caleb Nelson was the lone second-team selection to the defense.
The conference's preseason All-SLC squad is made up of returning all-conference selections from a season ago, with the additions voted on by the league head coaches.
Johnson asserted himself as one of nation's more punishing runners in 2012. A first-team all-conference selection last year, Johnson just missed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau while posting two 200-yard rushing games. Johnson received national player of the week honors following his 215-yard outing in an upset victory over Central Arkansas. He closed out the year with a career-best 226-yard performance in a win over Northwestern State.
While Johnson was busy making headlines for running the football, Ward was doing the same but at the receiver spot. Despite having a wealth of returning talent at receiver last season, Ward battled his way into the Lumberjack starting lineup. He finished second in the conference to only All-America selection Cordell Roberson with 62 catches for 762 yards and four touchdowns and received second-team all-conference honors in 2012.
If the league had a comeback player of the year award, that would have gone to Robinson last season. After sitting out the 2011 campaign due to injuries, the Dallas native rebounded in a big way. Robinson earned first-team all-conference honors after finishing among the conference's top 10 in tackles for losses and sacks.
Nelson will anchor the Lumberjacks secondary in 2013. The Apopka, Fla., native has recorded nearly 200 tackles and picked off three passes during his career. He has received honorable mention all-conference honors all three seasons at SFA.
Ratliff is one of the top returning offensive linemen in the country. He has been a part of a line that has finished ranked among the nation's leaders in pass protection every season, despite the Lumberjack offense putting the ball in the air nearly 600 per season during that stretch.
Due to the speed that he brings to the field, Brooks is one of the league's top dual threats. The 2012 honorable mention all-conference selection finished third in the league last season with 51 catches for 492 yards. Brooks' big-play potential makes him a threat on special teams as well.