RECRUITING: Cleveland Puts The Rumors To Rest

When it comes to Ben Cleveland, the recruiting rumor mill works overtime these days. The big tight end from Springdale, Arkansas committed to Florida back in the summer but the recruiting circuit is abuzz with all sorts of stories about Cleveland and his talented Springdale teammates.

(See Ben Cleveland profile)

Cleveland isn't the only high profile player from Springdale. Four-star wide receiver Damian Williams also committed verbally to the Florida Gators.'s number one quarterback in the South, Mitch Mustain (five stars) and three-star wide receiver Andrew Norman are pledged to Arkansas. Offensive tackle Bartley Webb (four stars) is committed to Notre Dame.

There are plenty of recruiting rumors about all five of the talented Springdale players. More than one message board has just about blown a few circuits with a rumor that one or more of these kids has changed his mind about his commitment. That seems to be a regular occurrence these days.

And the rumors aren't just limited to the players. Coach Gus Malzahn's name is swirling about, too. Just about every internet message board that deals with college football recruiting has him pegged to leave Springdale for a spot on Coach Houston Nutt's staff at nearby Arkansas.

That's where the recruiting rumors get hot and heavy. A majority of recruitniks assume that if Malzahn goes to Arkansas, all his players will join him. Cleveland says that the rumors about Malzahn aren't just limited to Arkansas.

"There are a bunch of rumors," said Cleveland when Gator Country caught up with Cleveland Monday night. "I hear a bunch that he is going everywhere else too."

And of course, every rumor about Malzahn has the players from his 9-0 team that is ranked ninth nationally following their coach.

Cleveland told Gator Country that despite all the rumors, he's perfectly satisfied with his college choice. Even if Malzahn gets a job at Arkansas, Cleveland is happy to be a Gator and plans to stick with his commitment.

"A lot of things would have to change at Arkansas, I mean a lot of things," Cleveland said. "Florida is a top notch school so I don't think there is any way to change my mind. Every week I talk to Coach (Dan) Mullen (Florida offensive coordinator). I've been able to watch the Gators every week. Other schools aren't really even recruiting me."

For the past three weeks, Cleveland has been sidelined with a knee injury. He tore a medial collateral ligament (MCL) that has kept him out of action while Springdale has prepped for the state playoffs by hammering any team in its path.

"I tore MCL, but I will be back next week 100 percent," he said. "I've been out two or three weeks. I could play this week but there is no need to. I should be full speed in a week. We are 9-0 and have had the mercy rule on everybody. The starters are only playing till halftime. If we are up by 25 the clock continues to run."

Cleveland is prepared to spend a lot of time in the weight room in the offseason and once he gets to Gainesville. He's expected to add weight to his present frame so that he can be prepared for immediate playing time. Florida will have only one scholarship tight end on the roster next season in Tate Casey, so Cleveland will have to come in ready to play.

"I am 6-5 and 235 right now," he said. "When I get to Florida they want me at 260 pounds."

So put the rumors to rest. Ben Cleveland says he is a Gator and a man of his word. He says he would enjoy doing a chat with the Gator Country faithful in the near future, too.

"I'd be up for that it … sounds good," he said.

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