(Photo Courtesy: Josh Goff)
CONWAY, Ark. (UCA) - The University of Central Arkansas Bears had eight players named to the All-Southland Conference first and second teams on Tuesday, with another four named honorable mention.
First-team selections for the Bears included four on the defensive side of the ball. Senior linebacker Justin Heard, senior defensive end Markeith Gaines, senior defensive back Marcus Peters and sophomore defensive end Jonathan Woodard.
Second-team selections included: senior tight end Chase Dixon, junior wide receiver Dezmin Lewis, senior offensive lineman Dominique Allen and junior offensive lineman Cole Caruthers.
Honorable mentions went to: senior defensive back Jestin Love, junior noseguard T.J. Randall, redshirt freshman receiver Desmond Smith and freshman kick returner Jatavious Wilson.
Heard, from Woodland, Ala., led the SLC in tackles per game with 10.6, finishing with with 95 stops in nine games. He was UCA's leading tackler for the second consecutive season, closing out the year with six straight double-figure tackles games.
Woodard, from Brentwood, Tenn., led the conference in sacks with eight for minus-36 yards. The 2012 SLC Freshman of the Year was also fourth in the league in tackles for loss with 11.5 (-41 yards), forced two fumbles and recovered one.
Gaines, from Theodore, Ala., was close behind Woodard, finishing sixth in the SLC in tackles for loss with 11 (-72 yards) and seventh in sacks with 5.5 (-47). Peters, from Daingerfield, Texas, finished second in passes defended with 12. He was named the SLC Special Teams Player of the Week in the final week of the regular season after intercepting two passes and returning one for a touchdown.
Dixon, from Fort Smith, caught 22 passes for 262 yards and six touchdowns in just seven games before a season-ending injury against Lamar. Dixon caught a touchdown pass in six consecutive games and hauled in nine passes for 149 yards against McNeese State.
Lewis, from Mesquite, Texas, also battled injuries this season but still led the Bears with 50 receptions for 721 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. Allen, from Houston, and Caruthers, from Sugar Land, Texas, helped the UCA offense 452.9 yards and 33.2 points per game.
Smith, from Bentonville, was UCA's third-leading receiver with 43 receptions for 503 yards and three scores. Randall, from Lee's Summit, Mo., had 30 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Love, the 2010 SLC Freshman of the Year from West Memphis, was UCA's No. 4 tackler with 49 stops and also recovered a pair of fumbles and broke up six passes.
Wilson, from Bastrop, La., was third in the nation in kickoff returns and second in the SLC with a 30.6-yard average, returning two for touchdowns of 93 and 85 yards. He also caught 41 passes for 409 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 88 yards.
The Bears, decimated by injuries, closed out a 7-5 season with a convincing 49-31 victory over No. 9 Sam Houston State last Saturday at First Security Field at Estes Stadium to finish tied with the Bearkats for third in the league.