Georgia Football

Eric Stokes Assumes Role as Top Corner After Impressive Spring Game

April 20, 2019
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ATHENS—Let’s roll it back a year to G-Day of 2018.

 

On defense, all eyes were on the darling of the secondary, returning senior Deandre Baker. Opposite of him was a battle-tested Tyrique McGhee to pair with. It was a strong duo, one that seemed cemented.

 

In the background of those two was Eric Stokes. Even with a solid spring game (five tackles, two breakups), Stokes was an afterthought playing on the second-team. It was a plus, but not imperative he play well for UGA’s success.

 

Now, one year later, Stokes is far from an afterthought on this team. He moved past that status when he worked up the depth chart in the fall, even starting the last few games of the year. But now he assumes a much bigger role on this team—corner no. 1.

 

With that spot comes a lot of eyeballs. Going into the day, the matchup between Stokes and Jeremiah Holloman was one to watch for. Right out of the gates, Stokes flashed. Less than three minutes into the game, Stokes returned an interception off Jake Fromm 39-yards to open the scoring.

 

So, in one year time, what changed in Stokes? If you ask him, it’s nothing.

 

“I still had the same confidence,” Stokes said with a grin.

 

Stokes may not say much has changed, but it’s palpable by others. Throwing against the Stokes of this year compared to last, Fromm can notice the difference. He sees a corner who is “really trusting his instincts” more than he once did.

 

“Stokes is great. He sits on things well,” Fromm said. “He’s very instinctive as a corner, so you really got to put the ball on the right spot.”

 

Kirby Smart can notice it too. From what he called “just an athlete” out of high school, Smart now sees a developed defensive back, and he can pinpoint the exact way he got there.

 

“He’s very conscientious of doing things the right way,” Smart said. “When you teach Stokes something, he listens and then he applies it. When you combine that ability with talent, you get a pretty good player.”

 

Even with Stokes’ strides, it’s hard to fill the shoes of a guy like Baker. The trust Baker had earned in the secondary was through the roof. Others knew that his side was locked down. Stokes hadn’t quite developed that with the secondary when he walked into his new role in the spring. He had earned their faith, just not to the level of the 2018 Jim Thorpe award winner.

 

Stokes is not the player Baker was last season, but among his peers, he’s at least reached the same level of trust, something that takes the weight off others’ shoulders.

 

“A lot of traits in Dre, I see in Stokes,” Richard LeCounte said. “I could count on Dre… I can count on Stokes. Once I felt like that, it was an amazing feeling.”

 

Even as all the good has built up Stokes, his main focus remains on the bad. He made what maybe was the play of the game on his touchdown, though he won’t take that taste of success with him into the offseason—he’ll take one of bitterness.

 

“I know the things I need to work on,” Stokes said. “I still gave up a touchdown today, that really killed me.”

 

 
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