What I Learned Watching: Ben Cleveland

MONROE - Dean Legge reviews Stephens County OL Ben Cleveland's performance against Monroe Area.

I’ve seen Ben Cleveland live a few times - sometimes in camp, sometimes in real games.

Very few players have the bruit strength Cleveland has. Have a look at his massive frame - that’s not something that grows on trees. When you shake his hand you notice how powerful his hands are. Cleveland is truly blessed with an NFL-like body.

I watched him play live against St. Pius and Monroe Area. It was a little difficult at first to keep up with which player Cleveland was against Monroe Area because he had changed his number during the season. Cleveland plays both defensive line and offensive line for Stephens County, so he must have changed his number from 74 for that reason.

At the same time, it’s not super difficult to pick out Cleveland. Just look for the largest person on the field. I was relatively impressed with him as a defensive lineman. I know that’s not what he’s going to play in college, but he really did show a motor I didn’t expect at that spot.

On one play he recovered a fumble after it had been kicked around by numerous players on the field. It was probably the most athletic play I’ve seen from Cleveland over the last two years. That play left me impressed.

I see Cleveland as an inside offensive lineman in college. He could wind up playing right tackle, that’s not crazy, but he just looks and seems to play like a guard. When transitioning to the SEC, Cleveland is going to have to work on bend and flexibility. He has tremendous power - no question - but in the SEC everyone has power (admittedly, Cleveland is still going to have more power than most in college), so he’s going to have to work on defensive linemen and outside linebackers who can dip their shoulders, rip and run to the quarterback.

He’s not going to get much competition at Stephens County on that front, so he’s going to have to look beyond the North Georgia Mountains to get that sort of training. That’s what he’s been doing, too. I’ve seen Cleveland compete at a slew of camps including at Georgia and the MVP Camp last spring in Atlanta. He’s also done other camps like the Nike Camp. So Cleveland is ready to get out there. That’s a real positive.

Back to my point: pass rushers in high school, at least many of the ones I have seen play Cleveland, don’t even bother trying to slap his hands away. They move forward right at him… like Cleveland, the defensive lineman are not polished.

Dealing with the likes of Lorenzo Carter, Jordan Jenkins or Leonard Floyd and company is the reason I think Cleveland will play inside. It’s more difficult to avoid him on the inside than out. Cleveland will have a better chance to use his power on the inside - an easier chance to throw his hands on defenders.

One other item - one of the biggest weapons in an offensive lineman’s arsenal is the ability to punch with their hands. Cleveland should make sure that his punch can be used on every snap - right in the middle of the defender’s chest. No player with any sense would be interested in taking more than three of those in a game.

Dawg Post Top Stories