Bulldogs Beat

How UGA’s new ‘technician’ pushes Eric Stokes to compete for starting spot

Throughout the media viewing period of Georgia’s practice on Saturday, newly-appointed Bulldogs defensive backs coach Charlton Warren’s voice echoed well above the booming hip-hop music on the loudspeakers, the chatter of prospects and high school coaches observing practice from the sideline, and even Kirby Smart’s whistle.

Warren’s previous stop came at Florida. Before that came stints at North Carolina and Nebraska.

Before all of that, though, Warren worked at his alma mater, Air Force, from 2005 to 2013. And it shows, from Warren’s intensity to his extreme attention to detail.

Warren called out redshirt sophomore Ameer Speed for his technique at one point during a drill. He told another player to leave the drill if he was going to play like he wasn’t going to try harder. Then he paused the drill to explain the proper hip technique to another cornerback, so the player wouldn’t get twisted around and lose his receiver if he went on a slant route.

“Coach Warren, he’s a technician,” Bulldogs cornerback Eric Stokes said. “He’ll get your feet right, he’ll get your eyes right. He wants the little things right, and so far, I’ve fell in love with his process.”

Stokes said Warren is more hands-on than former Bulldogs defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, and that he moves around more with the defensive backs.

There’s never really a quiet moment for the defensive back unit during practice: When Warren isn’t pushing the group, it then turns into Smart’s turn. Stokes said he likes it.

“I know the moment they stop yelling at me, or they stop getting into me, that means I have done something bad,” Stokes said. “I just love being coached (by them).”

Stokes and the rest of Georgia’s defensive backs, new position coach and all, face the daunting task of replacing Deandre Baker before September rolls around. This spring provides a solid opportunity to get a head start on that, and the Bulldogs return several players with previous game experience.

Stokes played in 13 games a season ago, but earned his way to a starting role late in the year. He started three of the last four games, beginning with his starting nod against Auburn, and recorded a season-high five tackles in Georgia’s Sugar-Bowl loss to Texas.

Stokes’ late-season breakout in 2018 was a long time coming — Stokes redshirted his freshman year and learned from his elders (like Baker).

“(Redshirting) was really, really helpful for me,” Stokes said, “as you guys could see from my second year. I was able to blossom as a player because I used some of the things they taught me.”

But Stokes actually doesn’t think his experience last season helps him much now.

“I can still come out here and make mistakes,” Stokes said. “Tyrique (McGhee), Tyson (Campbell), Ameer (Speed), all (of) them could easily be improving. I know for a fact if I stay the same, they can easily come past me.”