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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Redshirt freshman Eric Stokes exemplifies the process right now at UGA.

What happens after the recruiting ends? Eric Stokes defines that UGA process

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings at least four days a week. This play sheet offers up a different kind of Intel blog. What happens with these recruits once they get to campus? How do they earn key reps on the field? Redshirt freshman Eric Stokes just might be the poster Dawg for that right now. 

 

Eric Stokes had a great game on Saturday in relief of freshman starter Tyson Campbell.

Eric Stokes-UGA football-Georgia football
Eric Stokes was rated as the nation’s No. 63 cornerback prospect coming out of high school in 2017. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

It was his second eye-opening slab of heavy reps in which he impressed the coaching staff.

That, according to the press briefings this week, has Stokes in line for his first career start against UMass.

That’s a good thing for the depth in the secondary as it will soon be tasked with shadowing Bama’s brilliant core of receivers.

But the matter here will focus on the present day.

Let’s be clear on a few points:

  • Stokes came to UGA as an athlete with blinding speed in the 100-meter dash.
  • He didn’t really appear too much on the exposure circuit at the prospect camps in high school and was seen as a very raw prospect. He also didn’t play for one of the state’s high-profile programs.
  • That led to his 3-star ranking. As a recruit, he was rated as the nation’s No. 63 cornerback prospect and the No. 65 player in Georgia for the 2017 class on the 247Sports composite.
  • He had a lot to learn once he arrived at UGA. That’s why he redshirted his first season.

Stokes could be a poster Dawg for the purpose of player development at UGA. If he does get the nod on Saturday, then he will have beaten out a 5-star prospect with excellent speed and an even larger frame.

Campbell was the nation’s No. 2 cornerback prospect and the No. 12 overall recruit on that same composite rating for the 2018 class. He shined against the nation’s top players on the prospect evaluation circuit.

Stokes will have won the starting nod here more than Campbell lost it. When he was needed against Auburn, he was ready. Just like he was against Missouri.

That’s what matters when all the stars go out the window once they move into East Campus Village.

Eric Stokes-UGA football-Georgia football
Eric Stokes is coming on this year. Stokes continues to fare well when given a lot of reps this year. His Auburn and Missouri game tapes show what he can do. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“I’m always thinking to be ready for the next man up,” Stokes said after the Auburn game. “I am never out of it. I am always plugged into the game and thinking and wanting to be ready if I am needed. Just for days like this.”

What did he need to learn in that redshirt year before he was ready to play for Georgia? Plenty.

He answered a question about what he had to learn before he was ready to contribute the way he did against both sets of Tigers from the SEC.

What would the redshirt freshman version of himself tell the young man on the day he moved to Athens?

“I would be like you need to stay focused and get all into your playbooks, your assignments and your checks and every little thing,” Stokes said. “There are a lot of little things I would have to learn. This has been a great climb for me so far. My old self still wouldn’t believe what is going on for me right now.”

The Eastside High alum said that Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed have helped him tremendously.

“I know that ‘Bake’ will talk to me after every series about what I need to do,” he said. “J.R. and I are always communicating out there like the way we do in practice. We are all constantly trying to make each other better.”

That is just as important, if not more so, than signing up all these 5-star recruits.

Allow us to share one more pretty good Eric Stokes story 

Every recruit has a moment.

It is their decision epiphany. It is where they realize they made the right choice for their college career. Or they might have made the wrong choice.

Stokes said that light came on for him after the Missouri game this year.

Eric Stokes-UGA football-Georgia football
Eric Stokes could very well earn his first college start against UMass on Saturday. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“With that game, I saw that everything coach [Kirby] Smart and what coach [Mel] Tucker had been getting on to me about and why it is was worth it,” Stokes said. “I saw why they did that. I made the right choice to take in everything they taught me and it paid off. After that game, I knew that coming to Georgia was the best decision I had ever made.”

“Every day I am being pushed. There is no regard for who should be in there. That’s why I can never take a day off here. That’s why I am beyond happy that I picked Georgia.”

Kirby Smart praised the redshirt freshman this week when he spoke to the reporters on the UGA beat.

“He’s just smart,” Smart said. “He is really bright. He understands leverage, he understands coverages. You tell him something once and he goes out to practice and does it. A lot of the guys need reps and reps; Stokes gets it in the meetings. He’s very bright. He’s very diligent.”

Stokes added one other truism of sorts when it comes to the program.

“I know they are going to try and bring in somebody better than me next year,” he said. “Yes, sir. It is always your job is on the line. I needed a push like that. We need a push like that if we want to be great.”

He’s very likely to be a fan favorite with an attitude like that. Not to mention the way he flies to the ball and plays the run from his corner spot.

Did you check out this week’s “Before the Hedges” live stream? 

In this week’s show, we discussed a lot about a very few select topics.

Such as:

  • The Kenny McIntosh commitment
  • What that means for 4-star RB target Noah Cain
  • Are the black jerseys really just the formal wear for virtual prom pictures for UGA targets on visits?
  • 6 things you might not know about Umass in our “6-pack” segment

A few things to keep in mind with recruiting going forward

  • As of this blog, Noah Cain still plans to take his official visit for the Georgia Tech game. DawgNation found a way to tell our viewers about that live in the middle of “Before the Hedges” this week.
  • As reported weeks ago, that is also the official visit date for 5-star WR Jadon Haselwood.
  • It is hard not to notice that the Bulldogs are being a tad more selective with the class of 2020. Or at least it seems that way. When we look at the 2019 class, we find the board already had eight commits after those juniors finished their regular seasons.
  • This year’s group has just three public commitments for the class of 2020 at this time. This board isn’t shaping up as fast as its predecessor did.
  • I see where a lot of folks are speculating on if any of Georgia’s draft-eligible juniors have played their way into early entry consideration for the NFL. That’s a good thing for the program and the players themselves. That said, I don’t see Rodrigo Blankenship’s name being mentioned as early or as often as it likely should.
  • There are few Bulldogs, if any, that are as proficient at their job as Blankenship is at his. Think about the fact Blankenship is set to graduate. He’s also been on campus at UGA since he arrived as a preferred walk-on with the class of 2015.
  • Kickers don’t get drafted high. But he’s clearly one of the best in college football. He’d also be able to boom his own kickoffs. If he makes a team, that will likely draw a high six-figure payday for the 2019 season. He’ll have to wrestle with that idea or coming back and taking graduate classes for his fifth year in Athens.
  • I also think that some folks concern themselves too much with the number of players Georgia can sign in this year’s class. That’s a number that will evolve with the number of early entries, if any, to the NFL draft.
  • It will also hinge on any program attrition that involves transfers. I do think another key number will be the number of players the Bulldogs can enroll in January of 2019.
  • That will hinge on how many scholarships the Bulldogs will be under the NCAA-mandated cap of 85 student-athletes for football. Georgia could lose some talented potential players because the class just doesn’t have enough room in January and they want to enroll early somewhere.
  • With all those things to consider, I think it will be hard for the program to sign a full class of 25 players in this cycle.

 

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap.