During his tenure in Athens, Eric Stokes Jr. has already left a lasting impression on the program that will leave Georgia head coach Kirby Smart looking for another one like him when he’s gone. Stokes was an underrated three-star prospect out of Eastside High School in the 2017 class, and he signed with the Bulldogs on Feb. 1, 2017.
In high school, Stokes was an athlete that could play well on either side of the ball. Despite not playing defensive back, he was known for his ability to run and run with receivers. His length made is what Georgia coaches noticed, and possibly his speed. Stokes won a state championship in the 100 meters dash with a personal best of 10.39 seconds.
Stokes is currently listed at 6-foot-1 185 pounds on Georgia’s roster. When Stokes committed to Georgia he really started to focus on the cornerback position. He quickly became known his for his unique talent and skills, but his work ethic is what really earned him an opportunity on the field.
“My motivation is just the season,” Stokes said in a recent video posted by Georgia Football’s official Twitter account. “I’m trying to get better. I’m fixing to have that confidence because I know for a fact I’ve put in the work. I’m not fixing to rely on nothing else. I’m not going to wait until the last minute… I’m trying to make sure once the season gets here, I’m in tip-top shape to where everything else is just smooth.“
Over the past two seasons, Stokes has started 16 games with 13 of those coming in 2019. During that span, he has racked up 58 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and 18 pass breakups (held a team-high in 2019). Stokes also has a blocked punt that he returned for a touchdown against Missouri in 2018.
That one sack came against Tennesse in 2019 when Stokes bear-hugged Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer, and Tae Crowder picked up the fumble to return for a touchdown. As Maurer dropped back to pass, Stokes came in off a corner-blitz and completely demolished him.
Something that has haunted Stokes the past few years is that he hasn’t recorded his first career interception. In the fourth quarter of Georgia’s 21-14 win over Auburn, Box Nix threw a fade route that Stokes got his hands on, but was unable to haul it in.
As good as Georgia’s defense was last year, something that Smart always talked about was that his team wasn’t getting turnovers in the form of interceptions. Stokes has the potential to record his first interception in 2020, and that is something that possesses him to do better.
During this downtime, the NCAA isn’t allowing any sport to continue their team activities. That means no spring practice, team meetings, workouts, for Georgia football. Players aren’t even encouraged to come back to campus until further notice.
But that doesn’t stop players from being able to workout on their own in their hometowns or wherever they are. Per his Twitter, Stokes hasn’t been active about letting us know what he’s been doing, but a good guess is that he has been working out in some way, shape or form.
“My favorite offseason training would be like a Monday because you know you’ve got a little squat going,” Stokes said. “You know coach (Scott) Sinclair is fixing to kill you. You’ve just got to push through everything. You ain’t going to want to do this, you ain’t going to want to do that, but you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and you’ve got to look yourself and you just gotta realize, ‘Okay, what kind of person do I want to be? Do I want to be the person that, oh man, I could have, I should have, I would have, done this.’ Or do you want to be the kind of person that sits back and you’re living life because I give my all and I show everything I can do.”
Here is a gallery of Eric Stokes. Photography by Bulldawg Illustrated‘s Greg Poole: