Eric Stokes was looking for his moment to break out on defense.
The Bulldogs defensive back found that chance Saturday early in Georgia’s G-Day spring game.
On quarterback Jake Fromm’s second pass of the game, Stokes worked his way past wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman and intercepted Fromm’s pass. He turned and ran 39 yards into the end zone to score a touchdown for the Black team.
The first thought that ran through his head:
“It’s about time,” he said.
He saw the opportunity unfold when the offense lined up for the play. He saw the wide split and thought Holloman might have a slant route.
“I cheated more inside,” Stokes said. “And then once he slipped, it saved me a little time to where I looked back at the quarterback and then finally Fromm threw it, and I was like ‘oh, thank you.’ But I know me and JJ were fighting for it. I’m lucky that I grabbed it and was able to take off.”
He continued to make his presence known on defense throughout the game. He recorded four tackles and one pass breakup.
Coach Kirby Smart recognized Stokes’ play and his growth as a defensive back. Coming out of high school, Stokes was not really a defensive back, but more of an all-around athlete, he said. He’s grown in his role as a defensive back for Georgia, and had opportunities to showcase his abilities.
“He certainly made a big play to start it off today. I thought it was a good fight for the ball and scored when he got it,” Smart said.
Stokes made an impact last season as well. He played in 13 of 14 games in the 2018 season. He finished second on the team in pass breakups, with nine. His blocked punt against Missouri in which he returned it eight yards for a touchdown was the special-teams highlight of the season, and his only touchdown of the season.
While he enjoyed returning the interception for a touchdown, Stokes said the touchdown he gave up to Holloman is all he can think about. He knows there are areas of his game that he can improve, and he has focused on improving his technique throughout the spring.
He’s working on staying patient at the line. He said he has a tendency to move around, and assistant coach Charlton Warren has emphasized patience as an area for Stokes to hone in for his game.
Smart recognized the strides Stokes has made to improve his game through the 2018 season and spring practice to be a key defensive back for Georgia.
“He’s very conscientious to doing things the right way,” Smart said. “When you teach Stokes something, he listens and then he applies it. Which, when you combine that ability with talent, you’ve got a really good player.”
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