By: Daniel K. Hooker
Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina landed a pair of football players on the Freshman and Sophomore All-America teams as selected and today named by the staff of HERO Sports. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tyler Smith and sophomore linebacker Jayden Pauling were both tabbed as honorable mentions on the publication’s respective honorary squads by class.
WCU placed at least one individual on the sophomore squad for the fourth consecutive year while also garnering a freshman selection for the third time over the same span including back-to-back seasons.
Combined, the Southern Conference received eight selections to the HERO Sports Freshman All-America team with three first-team honorees led by Freshman of the Year in Chattanooga RB Ailym Ford with a total of five honorable mentions. Six second-year league players collected Sophomore All-America plaudits equally split with three first-team nods and a trio of honorable mentions.
Completing his first full season in 2019 after seeing reserve action in four games as a true freshman in 2018, Smith started all 12 games along the offensive line for the Catamounts. The Laurinburg, N.C., native played both left and right tackle for WCU. With 16 career starts over the past two seasons – as well as spending time on special teams – Smith returns in 2020 as one of the more experienced linemen for the Western Carolina offense.
Smith is the first lineman on either side of the football to garner Freshman or Sophomore All-America honors from HERO Sports over the past four seasons.
Working his way into the WCU starting lineup by mid-season, Pauling started seven of the 11 games in which he saw action including six-consecutive starts to end the year en route to claiming second-team All-Southern Conference accolades from the voting members of the SoCon Sports Media Association (SCSMA). The Raleigh, N.C., product finished the season with 51 total tackles, averaging 4.2 hits per game, and led the Catamounts with 11 tackles for loss including 6.5 sacks. He also forced a SoCon-leading five fumbles on the season – a mark that tied him for first in the NCAA FCS at the end of the regular season.
Pauling claimed SoCon Defensive Player of the Week plaudits and honorable mention for the STATS FCS national award after posting eight tackles including seven solo stops and two for loss against Samford on Nov. 16. He also forced three fumbles, jarring the football loose on both of his recorded sacks with his third forced fumble halting a Bulldog drive. His 22 tackles including 5.5 TFLs with four sacks and four forced fumbles landed him SoCon Defensive Player of the Month accolades for November.
The National Signing Day early period for football opens on Wednesday, Dec. 18 with three days to ink National Letters of Intent (NLI) through Friday, Dec. 20 before the traditional National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. The Catamount Club’s annual Football Signing Day Reception – presented by Ingles, the Chef’s Kitchen – will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, prior to the Catamount men’s basketball game against chromatic conference-rival, Furman (2 pm). Head football coach Mark Speir and his staff will talk about the upcoming 2020 Catamount Football season and provide an analysis of this year's recruiting class providing an overview of each signee.
Catamount Club members at the Top Cat level and above are eligible to attend the exclusive event which begins with a social catered by Ingles, with the recruiting program to follow. More details regarding the event will be released by the Catamount Club in the coming weeks.
Speir and his staff anticipate opening their annual spring drills following the university’s Spring Break in mid-March with the conditioning “Purple Dawn,” March 16. The NCAA-regulated 15 days of spring practice is tentatively scheduled to open on Wednesday, March 25 with plans to conclude approximately a month later on Friday, April 24.
Keep track of everything related to Catamount football and WCU Athletics through its social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/CatamountSports) and Twitter (@Catamounts, @CatamountsFB).
Catamounts on HERO Sports Freshman All-America Squad:
2019: Tyler Smith, OL – Honorable Mention
2018: Ronald Kent Jr., DB – 1st team
2016: Tyrie Adams, QB – 1st team
Catamounts on HERO Sports Sophomore All-America Squad:
2019: Jayden Pauling, LB – Honorable Mention
2018: Owen Cosenke, TE – 1st team; Ty Harris, LB – Honorable Mention
2017: Tyrie Adams, QB – Honorable Mention
2016: Ian Berryman, P – 1st team