Back in August the Georgia Bulldog Offensive line was an unknown quantity. And Ben Cleveland was an unknown component of the larger unknown. Undeterred, I labeled the big man from Stephens County one of the ten Bulldogs poised to pounce during the 2017 season.
Was I right? Let’s take a deeper look.
Old take exposed
Despite the number of players competing for a starting spot on the Bulldog offensive line, and the fact that he didn’t play a single snap as a true freshman, I predicted:
I would be surprised if Cleveland isn’t in the mix, and if he doesn’t at least come off the bench for significant snaps. The 6’6, 340 pound mountain man has now trained at guard and tackle in Sam Pittman’s scheme. He’s noticeably in better shape now than when he reported to Athens.
I stand by that take, and I think the 2017 campaign bore out Cleveland’s place as a fixture on the UGA offensive line in the years to come.
While Big Ben served in a backup capacity for the first part of the season he assumed the starting right guard spot after the loss to Auburn in November. Cleveland then started the remaining five games of the season at that position. He brought with him a nasty, physical presence that helped redefine the entire OL unit down the stretch.
Serious pop from UGA OL 74 Ben Cleveland. pic.twitter.com/vjbyn9mXjI— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 18, 2017
#UGA redshirt freshman Ben Cleveland (RG) and true freshman Andrew Thomas (RT) folding guys in half... @Dawgs247 pic.twitter.com/EqPG8f7wVH— Jake Rowe (@Rowe247) November 21, 2017
#UGA players light up talking about o-lineman Ben Cleveland. Everyone has a story. WR Javon Wims said Cleveland did 50 reps of 225 pounds on the bench this year ... and coaches stopped him from doing more. pic.twitter.com/IWsqToMPFi— Justin Felder (@Justin_FOX5) January 6, 2018
Looking ahead, as a rising redshirt sophomore Cleveland has anywhere from one to three years to contribute to the Red and Black rushing attack. I’m confident he will leave Athens having made an indelible mark on the program. The verdict: Pounced late, but in a big way. Until later...