CB Eric Stokes posts time to beat in 40 at Georgia’s pro day

By CHARLES ODUM
AP Sports Writer

Cornerback Eric Stokes bolstered his NFL draft outlook on Wednesday by showing he may be the fastest player in the nation.

Stokes was clocked at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash in front of NFL scouts at Georgia’s pro day. He was timed at 4.29 seconds in his other run.

The 4.25 is believed to be the fastest by any player at a pro day workout this year. There were slightly varying reports from different hand-held times, but that didn’t detract from the strong demonstration by Stokes as witnessed by representatives from all 32 NFL teams.

“It’s just amazing,” Stokes said. “People finally seeing my speed for sure. They’re finally acknowledging it, like not pushing it aside. They actually see I’m really that fast. It’s amazing.”

University of Washington wide receiver John Ross, who was with the Cincinnati Bengals but now is a free agent, set the NFL scouting combine record for the 40 at 4.22 seconds in 2017. Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was clocked at 4.27 seconds in the 2020 combine before he was drafted by the Raiders.

The pro day workouts have taken on greater importance as the NFL is not having an official scouting combine this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stokes (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) is projected as a second-round pick in this year’s draft. He returned four interceptions for 94 yards, including two for touchdowns last season. He also had a return for a touchdown as a freshman in 2018.

Stokes’ sprints were no surprise to Georgia coach Kirby Smart.

“Speed, speed and more speed is the first thing he can bring,” Smart said Wednesday. “He’s a high-character young man who has brought so much to our program.”

Linebacker Azeez Ojulari, a possible first-rounder, could be the first Georgia player selected in the draft. Ojulari had three sacks in Georgia’s 24-21 Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati, giving him 8 1-2 for the 2020 season.

Ojulari (6-2, 249) also impressed with his top 40 time of 4.62 seconds while doing 26 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Offensive lineman Ben Cleveland, who had targeted the NFL combine record of 49 reps on the bench press, settled for 30. Cleveland said he was disappointed he “got a little off rhythm” but said “I still put up good numbers.

Cleveland (6-3, 335) posted an unofficial time of 4.85 in the 40.

Stokes’ time was the highlight, but he was frustrated he dropped too many balls in interception drills.

“I know for a fact I’ve got to improve my ball skills,” Stokes said. “All the speed and all that stuff is great, but for me the drops are the things I know for a fact I’ll go over constantly over and over again. That’s the thing that’s going to eat me alive the most.”

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