Cleveland is Ready For The Calls

ATLANTA - Ben Cleveland is just a sophomore at Stephens County this year, but his recruitment has already been going for months.

Cleveland, a 6-foot-5, 320 pound offensive tackle, already has offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. Though the offers continue to pour in from all around, Cleveland's mother, Andrea, prefers he stay close to home. The sophomore's brother recently moved to Statesboro to play baseball at Georgia Southern, an event that molded Andrea's opinion on where she wants Cleveland to attend school.

"We just got back from Statesboro where Ben's older brother is going to play baseball," Cleveland's mother said. "I hope Ben goes somewhere a little closer."

One of those close schools is Georgia, a place Cleveland has often said he feels comfortable. He's talked to Georgia coaches a lot and even attended Dawg Night in July. Cleveland's mother said talking to all these schools has been hectic at times, but she knows she'll just have to get used to it with Cleveland being so young.

"The recruiting process has been crazy for him right now," Cleveland's mother said. "But I expect it to get even crazier since he's just a sophomore."

Cleveland just wants to go to a school where he can enjoy the outdoors.

"I like to fish, hunt and just mess around," Cleveland said. "If I'm outside, I'm happy."

Cleveland could find a place to do that at just about any school he's been offered by, but he's only really been in contact with two; Georgia and Florida. Cleveland had a chance to speak with Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend during Dawg Night, and the sophomore liked what Friend had to say about his college potential.

"Coach Friend has been pretty much my main contact man," Cleveland said. "I really like him. He's a good guy and he pushes his players to do their best. That's what our coaches do here [Stephens], so it really just shows how college football and high school football can go hand in hand."

As far as the opposing coach from south of the border, Florida's Will Muschamp, Cleveland said the Gators' head coach seemed to have a lot of confidence in his blocking.

"He talked to me and my dad briefly on the phone. He said they could run behind me and I had real good hands and feet," Cleveland said. "He wants me to come down there and improve, and me improving is something I've got to work on every single day."

Though last season was a breakout year for Cleveland, he said this past summer was a relatively quiet one as far as recruiting calls go. Whether that's a good thing or not, it's given Cleveland a chance to relax and focus on his high school team.

"I haven't heard from any schools this summer except the camps I went to at Georgia and Alabama," Cleveland said. "Other than that I haven't heard from any."

This short period of silence has given Cleveland a chance to improve his game, and more importantly become more of a leader for Stephens County, a team that lost a lot of its starters to graduation last season.

"It's made me step up a lot," Cleveland said. "I tried to be a leader last year, but people don't really take a freshman seriously. This year I've been more of a leader than I was last year."

As far as skills go, Cleveland worked on a few areas of his game during the offseason. He knows he's still got a ways to go, but he's very young.

"I feel like I've really gotten better this year with using my hands," Cleveland said. "Last year I wasn't really shooting with my hands. I've still got to work on it because it's not perfect."

The offseason has also given Cleveland a chance to kick back and enjoy some time with his family; something that doesn't always come easy during the college recruiting process.

"I haven't really gotten to take any visits because high school football has been going four days a week and during the off time I try to spend time with my family," Cleveland said.

Though Cleveland's phone is about to start ringing off the hook from recruiting calls, it's his family that knows him best, and they say those recruiters may get more than they bargained for when conversing with him.

"There's no telling what Ben's going to say," Cleveland's mother said. "He's a very entertaining kid."

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