July 28, 2010
Smith Named Preseason SoCon Defensive Player Of The Year; Seven Bulldogs Named All-Conference
Samford senior linebacker Bryce Smith was named the Southern Conference's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year when the league's football coaches released their Preseason All-Conference team and poll July 26.
Samford had a total of seven players on the Preseason All-Conference teams, the second most in the league, behind only Appalachian State with 14 total selections.
Smith, who was recently named to the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award, has led Samford in tackles and interceptions in each of the last two seasons. Last season, he led the nation in solo tackles per game, averaging 7.2 per contest. As a junior, Smith led the team with 102 total tackles, despite missing one game due to injury.
He also led the team in interceptions with four, and he ranked third in the SoCon in total tackles per game with an average of 10.2 per contest. Smith was named first-team All-SoCon at the conclusion of his junior season.
Joining Smith on the first team are running back Chris Evans, offensive lineman Thomas Gray and punter Bob Hooper. Samford's second-team members are wide receiver Riley Hawkins, defensive lineman John Michael Clay and return specialist Richie Fordham.
Evans, a member of the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, is already Samford's all-time career rushing leader with 3,469 yards in his Samford career. As a junior in 2009, Evans became the first player in Samford history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in three-straight seasons. He ran for 1,152 yards during his junior campaign.
Evans has led the Southern Conference in rushing in both of Samford's seasons in the league. He has also been named first-team All-SoCon in each of the last two seasons. In addition to his rushing numbers, Evans also led the team in receptions in 2009. He caught a team-high 38 passes for 172 yards.
Gray has been a starter on Samford's offensive line since his freshman season in 2007. He has been one of the leaders of the unit that has produced Samford's first three-time 1,000-yard rusher.
After his junior season in 2009, Hooper was named first-team All-Conference by the media and second-team by the coaches after averaging 41.5 yards on 73 punts. He placed 25 kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line, and he set a Samford record by averaging 54.2 yards on five punts against Chattanooga.
Hawkins, despite missing three games due to injury, led Samford in receiving yards with 638 yards on 34 receptions. He caught four touchdown passes, including a long reception of 69 yards.
Clay had 37 tackles, including 24 solo stops as a junior in 2009. He also had 11 tackles for a loss and he led the team with six sacks. Clay also blocked one kick and forced a fumble during his junior campaign.
Fordham returned nine kickoffs for a team-high average of 22.6 yards per return. He also led the team with 21 punt returns for an average of 8.5 yards per return. Fordham also played as a receiver last season, catching 18 passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns. Fordham also completed two passes for 124 yards and two scores.
In addition to the All-Conference teams, the coaches' Preseason Poll was also released. Samford was picked to finish fourth in the nine-team league.