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Special / Student Sports
3-star CB Eric Stokes Jr. (center) has suddenly become a very wanted man by UGA head coach Kirby Smart.

Sentell’s Intel: Speedy CB Eric Stokes Jr. says UGA has made a big move in his recruiting

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
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Commit the name Eric Stokes Jr. to memory. Go ahead. It sounds like it is going to matter sooner rather than later.

Everyone might process his profile differently. Some will look at the fact he’s rated as a 3-star cornerback and shrug. Why rev the hopes up for a player rated as the nation’s No. 60 cornerback for 2017? If Stokes committed to UGA today, he’d be the second-lowest rated prospect on the board.

Consider that. But you should also keep in mind he might be the fastest high school player in SEC Country.  DawgNation should get excited about the 6-foot defensive back for several reasons:

  • The 180-pounder picked up an offer from UGA on Nov. 1. The Bulldogs are now already in his top group.
  • Stokes will be at the Auburn game on Saturday. It will be his first visit to a UGA game. He’s going to be at the next possible home game after he received that offer. That says something.
  • The senior started getting his first big offers about five months ago. He just started dabbling at cornerback this season. That’s when he began to get his major starting reps at that spot.
  • As stated above, the young man is stupid fast. Like “Spaceballs” Ludicrous Speed fast. He said his best effort in the 100 meters was the 10.39 laser time he clocked during the prelims of the GHSA state meet back in May.
  • If teams kept a stat for the times a defender chased a runner down who appeared to be on the way to a score, he’d have a bunch of those. Maybe even one per game. We’d call that the “hawk” stat. Stokes can hawk down just about anyone with his 4.3 speed in the 40.

Stokes won GHSA Class 4A state titles this year in the 100 meters (10.48) and 200 meters (21.58) and also won the fastest man challenge at the Nike Atlanta “The Opening” regional at Buford High earlier this year.

He’s clocked those times despite those times despite very tepid starts. Stokes describes his form out of the blocks as poor.

Stokes says that the UGA offer he received on Nov. 1 has really altered the scope of his recruiting decision. (Joshua L. Jones / Special)
Stokes says that the UGA offer he received on Nov. 1 has really altered the scope of his recruiting decision. (Joshua L. Jones / Special)

That’s a good parallel to his football recruiting. Sluggish start. A recovery follows. Then he kicks into some blinding recovery speed thanks to a gear no one else in the race has.

That track play-by-play also mirrors where Georgia has been in his recruiting up to this point. The Bulldogs kind of stumbled out of the blocks, too.

Stokes has been strongly considering interest from Florida, Louisville, Ole Miss and West Virginia. The Mountaineers have probably “hawked” him the most out of that group.

When Stokes had that top group, it led him to believe he’d have to move a long way from home to go to school. That’s an important nugget. He values family. He considers himself to be a family guy and said his family’s influence will be one of the biggest factors in his college decision.

“That (Georgia) offer changed a lot of things because my whole mindset has been going out of state,” he said. “It looked like I was going to have to move like four or five hours away. Since I got the big in-state offer, I can now think about being closer to home and closer to my family. That really changed up a whole lot of things.”

He’s set up two official visits up to this point. That’s Louisville on Dec. 2 and Ole Miss on Jan. 27.

“I’ve got a great relationship with all the coaches at Ole Miss,” he said. “I love it down there. I love Oxford.”

Stokes said to look for UGA to also very likely get one of those, too. He told DawgNation that he and his family were all “shocked” when they learned he had the UGA offer. also said that he’s got all the offers he needs to choose from in college.

The speedster said he now has all the offers he needs to choose where he will play college ball.

“I’m not looking for anything else,” Stokes said, who also said that Louisville is a strong contender.

 

What took UGA so long? 

Stokes wants to major in business. He also aims to minor in psychology. He said he’s spoken to Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze at a camp before. That’s the only college head coach he’s had a conversation with.

Well, until Georgia coach Kirby Smart got into the mix over the last two weeks. There’s some amateur psychology involved there. There’s the natural curiosity to wonder what took the Bulldogs so long.

eric-stokes-jr-by-student-sports
Stokes has been timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.33 seconds. (Student Sports)

“I got off the phone with Coach Smart yesterday and he talked about how he could really see me being there,” Stokes said. “He told me how they saw me and looked at me this summer as a raw talent then. But then they’ve seen my senior highlight tape and the things I can do and the type of player I can become. They see they can make me into a great player with some good hard coaching.”

This is not a case of a track guy evolving into a football guy. It is more of a speed guy morphing into a cornerback. Stokes has no straight track scholarship offers and he’s only been running track since his freshman year of high school.

The college track coaches see him as a football player that runs track. Not the other way around.

He’s primarily been a running back at Eastside, but he was getting cross-trained at cornerback because his high school coaches wisely saw that his college future was likely at that position. Stokes had been starting at RB but an injury that took place on the opening kickoff cost Eastside one of its starting cornerbacks.

Stokes was the next man up. The film he’s built up this year getting better-by-better each week impressed Georgia. Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker loves his speed. He told him he can’t coach that.

“Coach Tucker says he can mold me into what I need to be but he can’t give me that speed,” Stokes said. “I’ve had to show everybody every week that I am more than just a speedster.”

He grew up a Florida fan.

“I hate to say that but I did grow up liking the Gators,” said Stokes, who said that Florida contacts him about 1-2 times per week recruiting him now.

Georgia is already contacting Stokes about 3-4 times per week. He could also run track at UGA. He’s set to meet with the track coach at UGA during his unofficial visit on Saturday.

“I would like to run track in college at a place like Georgia but it wouldn’t hurt me if I do not,” he said.

It appears the humble start the Bulldogs have had in recruiting Stokes has not cost them much. Yet.

“A month ago they were maybe way behind for me but right now they are right in the middle of it,” Stokes said. “There are neck-and-neck with everybody else. .. I love what Georgia is telling me right now. I love the type of defense they run and I can easily see myself fitting in with it and I just love everything Georgia has going on for me right now.”

Stokes said he’s still early in his decision. He thinks he needs to see a lot more on the recruiting trail, but he’s currently saying a lot of promising things in regard to the in-state school and he’s never seen a game in Sanford Stadium yet.

There are a lot of visitors to UGA this weekend, but I’d rate the visit from Stokes as the most trip that could make the biggest impact with a key recruit. The Bulldogs can show Stokes all he needs to see and be the destination he’s looking for in college.

This one would just be 40 miles down the road from his family and loved ones in Covington.

 

Big official visitor this weekend

Georgia 4-star RB commitment Toneil Carter will be in town this weekend for the Auburn game. This will be his official visit.

Carter is taking his only official visit to UGA this weekend. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Carter is taking his only official visit to UGA this weekend. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

There’s really nothing but the best of things to report regarding the Langham Creek (Houston, Tex.) standout. Carter committed to UGA back in July at “The Opening in Oregon. If you haven’t read his inspiring story, then you should.

RELATED: UGA commitment Toniel Carter runs through adversity on his way to college football 

When he chose UGA, his older brother-slash-guardian (read this story to understand that relationship) said that the family might not take any other official visits. LSU and nearby Texas A&M were the other major contenders, but the family sounded comfortable shutting it down.

That is still the case. The UGA visit is currently the only official visit that Carter has planned. He will also enroll early after graduating in December. He will attend the Under Armour All-American Game and then move to Athens shortly after that.

Carter is rated as the nation’s No. 7 RB and the No. 118 overall prospect for the Class of 2017.

Walker Little, a 5-star OT from Texas, is the only other scheduled official visitor for UGA this weekend. He’s a longshot to eventually sign with UGA and we explored that topic earlier this week.

Kirby knows research 

When I spoke to Stokes, the conversation also uncovered another very interesting thread regarding the way that Georgia goes after a prospect it wants to recruit to join the team.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart somehow found the time to do a background check on a key recruit. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Georgia coach Kirby Smart somehow found the time to do a background check on a key recruit. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Stokes felt it seemed like that Georgia looked at his film on a week-to-week basis and evaluated his growth at the cornerback spot.  I think that mattered a great deal to the offer. I also believe the de-commitment of 4-star Florida CB Latavious Brini last month ratcheted up Georgia’s efforts to prioritize another CB target for the Class of 2017.

William Poole III, the 4-star CB from Hapeville Charter, is the only other commitment on the board at that position for 2017.

I found it interesting what Stokes said Smart did beyond looking at his highlight tape prior to extending that offer.

“He said he called all around and did his research on me,” Stokes said. “I think he called the principal and he called my coaches. Coach Smart called some of the teachers at Eastside and asked them what type of person I was. He said he loved the answers they gave. He said they told him if you see me in the halls then you would always see me with a big smile on my face. They never saw me with an attitude and told him I was the type of kid who tries to make everyone’s day. He told me that he’s looking for players just like that.”

When he started to get to know Stokes after the offer had been made, the 3-star prospect had a few family matters to deal with. Smart backed off and allowed him some space.

He also told him that he’d be praying for him and his loved ones.

RIP to a DGD

I realize this space is usually reserved to discussing (at length) the future of Georgia football. But I just want to make sure everyone takes a moment to respect the memory of one of UGA’s truly great players.

Georgia legend Bill Stanfill passed yesterday at the age of 69. He meant so many things to the culture of the program during his era. Georgia’s vast tradition was built brick-by-brick by players like Stanfill.

He was an All-American and the captain of the 1968 SEC championship team. That squad was also honored with a national title by at least one service. Alabama would definitely count that one according to its national championship math formula.

Stanfill received The Outland Trophy in 1968. He’s the only player in the Georgia football history to receive that honor which is bestowed on the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman. The former defensive lineman was on two SEC title teams in his four-year career from 1966-68.

Stanfill made three All-SEC teams and hit SEC legend Steve Spurrier so hard during their playing days that those bruises probably still ache.

The Cairo native went on to be the No. 11 overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the 1969 NFL draft. With Miami, he finished second on the ballot for the 1969 AFL Rookie of the Year and went on to win two Super Bowls. He was a member of the famous 1972 roster that is still only pro football team in modern history to finish with an unbeaten record.

That term “DGD” gets thrown around a lot, but that term was invented to pay respect to men like Bill Stanfill. I just wanted to add an appreciation of his life and career to the blog today.

The Macon Telegraph’s Jason Butt wrote about his passing and the word “legend” was used in the headline.

That definitely applies here.

 

 

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Follow Jeff Sentell on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.

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