NACOGDOCHES — Highlighted by senior safety Alize Ward’s standing as a Fourth Team Preseason All-American, a total of four SFA football players appeared on Phil Steele’s FCS 2019 Preseason All-American and All-Conference Teams, which was announced Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to his Fourth Team Preseason All-American choice, Ward was one of two ’Jacks to earn a First Team All-Southland choice by carving out a spot for himself on defense. Along with Ward, senior kicker Storm Ruiz was tabbed a First Team All-Southland special teams performer. Senior Tamrick Pace showed up on the All-Southland Second Team offense while senior linebacker Quin Jones was placed on the All-Southland Third Team defense.
Ward picked up Preseason All-American honors on Phil Steele’s list for the second straight season and is hoping to wrap up his collegiate career on a high note this fall. Last season he ranked among the conference’s top 20 tacklers by posting 7.2 stops per game in Southland play, which ranked 17th in the 11-team league.
Ward completed the season as the Lumberjacks’ second-leading tackler with 58 total tackles and a team-best 36 solo stops. The San Diego, California product notched four or more tackles in the final eight games of the season and had three performances with double-digit tackles, including a career-high tying 12 against Lamar (Oct. 27).
Named a Preseason All-Southland Conference First Team pick in July, Ruiz served as SFA’s starting placekicker for the third straight season a year ago. He went 9-for-12 (.750) on field goal attempts in 2018 and was an unblemished 22-22 on PATs, finishing 7-8 from beyond 30 yards and 4-5 from over 40 yards. The League City native was a perfect 4-4 on field goals between 40-49 yards en route to ranking 33rd nationally and fifth in the Southland in field goal percentage.
Accounting for 49 of the Lumberjacks’ 181 points on the season, Ruiz averaged 4.8 points per game to rank eighth in the league in kick scoring. He also ranked 56th in the nation and sixth in the conference in field goals per game (0.90). This season, Ruiz has a chance to become the only current FCS kicker to convert every PAT throughout his four-year collegiate career.
For the third-straight season, Pace was one of SFA’s top offensive weapons in 2018 and attracted the most attention from opposing defenses. The Brownsboro native led the ’Jacks in touchdowns (seven) last season, finished second on the team in receiving yards (623), ranked third in all-purpose yards and was second in receiving yards per game (69.2). His 42 receptions and 14.8 yards per catch were third among Lumberjack receivers as he ranked ninth in the Southland and was second on the team in scoring (4.7 PPG).
Pace accounted for 42 of SFA’s 181 points scored in 2018 thanks to seven receiving touchdowns, which ranked fifth in the league and 46th nationally. He was among FCS statistical leaders in several categories, including ranking 51st in the country and seventh in the conference in receiving yards per game, 66th nationally and 11th in the Southland in receptions per game.
, and 93rd in the nation and 14th in the league in receiving yards.
One of only 12 Lumberjack receivers to have amassed 2,000 or more receiving yards, Pace enters his senior year ranked 10th on SFA’s all-time career receiving yards list with 2,104 yards and tied for eighth in career touchdown receptions (20).
The recipient of the 2019 Cally Belcher Award, Jones emerged as one of the ’Jacks’ best defenders during his inaugural season with the program in 2018. His 48 tackles placed him fourth among all SFA players one season ago while his 5.0 tackles for loss and 23 solo tackles were each the third-most on the team. Jones’ most recent action on the gridiron came in SFA’s 2018 season finale against Northwestern State where he racked up a career-high 11 tackles , five of which were unassisted, against the Demons.