Stokes Still Courted by Others but 'Locked in' with Buckeyes

Versatile safety prospect remains solid to Ohio State despite SEC advances
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It wasn't pretty for Kye Stokes and Seffner (Fla.) Armwood on Friday night, but a second-half shutout helped the Hawks take out Tampa (Fla.) Gaither 22-19. It gave the Cowboys their first regular season loss since 2019. 

The Ohio State safety commitment wasn't thrilled with his individual performance, but acknowledged how big of a win it was for the program. 

"We're still here," he said as the final seconds ticked off the clock. "Armwood is still here!"

Indeed, the Hawks are, sitting at 2-1 and likely to be favored in each of their remaining games. Its defense has been the catalyst, too, allowing just 15 points per game to this point. 

"I had an average game, but I feel like I did my job," Stokes said. "I'm really working on making those plays that are the unexpected."

After speaking to SI All-American, a de-commitment from Ohio State may be considered unexpected. Pledged to Ryan Day's program since May, the 6'2" and rangy defensive back hasn't looked back. 

"1000% Ohio State, there's no doubt in my heart," he said. "The relationship I continue to build with the coaches, with the entire program and even some of the players that I've been keeping in contact with -- it's making me even more locked-in and ready to start learning."

Stokes will return to Columbus this weekend as Tulsa comes to town, marking his second trip to campus. He took an official visit over the summer and the first impression was quite strong.  

"Blew my mind," he said. "It was great. Facility was amazing, people were amazing. It felt like home for the next five, six years. 

"Now I want to see how the players handle the game day. You don't get to see that behind the scenes, like how they lock-in before the game, how they handle it after the game. I want to be able to witness that first-hand."

On Friday, Florida had an assistant coach on hand to see Stokes in action. Secondary coach Wesley McGriff spent part of the evening tracking No. 13.  

"He told me he was coming," Stoke said. "I'm not burning any bridges so I tell them, 'Thank you for the opportunity.' As of right now, I'm 1000% locked-in.

"I'm not planning a visit to Florida and I'm not sure I'm going to see any other games. I'm still a high school student and I love college football, so I could go see a game but if I did it would be just to enjoy a college game."

The in-state Gators do offer some connections to Stokes, having often recruited the Tampa area.

"I feel like it's a great SEC program," he said. "I know a lot of guys there, Jordan Young--he played at Gaither--is there. Dez Watson played at Armwood- he's there. Obviously they will have some top-notch talent and will be able to develop me, but go Bucks!"

When it comes to Ohio State's secondary coaches, there is consistent communication.  

"I talk to Coach (Matt) Barnes a lot, I talk to Coach Day, too," Stokes said. "He (Barnes) really just breaks down my film. He hits me about every other week, tells me what I could have done better in the game and what I could work on. He says I'm still that versatile, everywhere player. I'm trying to get my hips right, feet right, eyes better." 

Armwood travels to Dover (Fla.) Strawberry Crest on Friday night.