By: Ashley Springer/Louisiana Tech Athletics
RUSTON – Louisiana Tech had four Bulldogs represented on the 2020 preseason all-Conference USA team as voted upon by the league’s 14 head coaches as redshirt senior running back Justin Henderson, redshirt senior offensive lineman Kody Russey, redshirt senior defensive lineman Willie Baker and redshirt junior deep snapper Reeves Blankenship each made the list.
Henderson, a native of Lake Wales, Fla., was named second team all-Conference USA in 2019 after leading LA Tech with 188 carries for 1,062 yards and 15 touchdowns. Henderson became the 13th Bulldog in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, while his 15 rushing touchdowns led C-USA and tied for the seventh most in a single season in program history. He also recorded 20 receptions for 200 receiving yards and a touchdown during the 2019 campaign. Henderson was an all-Louisiana honorable mention and named the Independence Bowl Outstanding Offensive Player in 2019.
Russey was an all-Conference USA honorable mention in 2018 and 2019, an all-Louisiana honorable mention in 2018 and was named to the Conference USA all-Freshman team in 2017. The Burleson, Texas, native has appeared in all 39 games, including 35 starts, for Louisiana Tech over the last three seasons. As a junior in 2019, Russey bolstered an offensive line that among C-USA teams, ranked second in scoring offense (32.5 PPG), fourth in rushing (168.4 YPG), second in total offense (436.8 YPG), fourth in passing (268.5 YPG), first in third-down conversion % (41.4) and second in first downs (304). He also helped lead an offensive front that produced a 1,000-yard rusher in Henderson and the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year in J’Mar Smith.
Baker was named an all-Conference USA honorable mention and all-Louisiana honorable mention in 2019, and was a member of ESPN’s all-Bowl team in 2018. In 2019, the New Roads, La., native appeared and started in 11 games where he led the team in tackles for loss with 10.0 and was ninth on the team with 51 total tackles. Baker recorded six or more tackles in five contests during the 2019 campaign, and was second on the team with five quarterback hurries.
Blankenship was named second team all-Conference USA in 2019, an all-Conference USA honorable mention in 2018 and was named to the Conference USA all-Freshman team in 2018. The native of Springfield, La., played in all 13 games during the 2019 season as LA Tech’s starting deep snapper. During the campaign, the Bulldogs did not give up a blocked punt or field goal with Blankenship as the starting deep snapper.
Marshall and North Texas had the most overall preseason selections with five, while Louisiana Tech listed four and Southern Miss, UAB and WKU each produced players comprising three spots. Eight schools had multiple players named to the squad.
The league’s 25th football season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 3. The 16th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West Divisions, is slated for Saturday, Dec. 5.