TE Ben Cleveland Likes Iowa; Plans to Visit

Springdale, Ark. will likely play home to one of the most explosive high school offenses in this country from the past several years. There has been a lot of press given to sensational quarterback Mitch Mustain and his lethal wide receiver Damian Williams, but one prospect who is quickly emerging right alongside them as one of the nation's best at his position is tight end Ben Cleveland. He plans to make a visit to Iowa City in the near future.

People probably can't even to begin to understand the pressure that is being placed on Razorback head coach Houston Nutt to keep Arkansas' fine Springdale prospects within the state's borders.

In the case of Ben Cleveland, he is not a native of Arkansas and quite frankly has not received the pressure that a Mitch Mustain or Damian Williams has experienced thus far.

"I actually didn't move to Springdale until July 1st of last summer," Cleveland said. "I came from Arti City, Kansas. My father had come down to Springdale to help my aunt paint her house, and started to hear about the good football program, and did some research on his own. I came up the next weekend, liked it myself, and now here I am."

Cleveland is thankful for the move as who knows if he would have still received the same notoriety in Arti City.

"When I first got up here, none of us were really big names. Mitch didn't receive his offer from Arkansas until we attended the Hoover 7-on-7 camp, and then after that, it all just sort of blew up," Cleveland stated.

One of the first programs to offer Cleveland a scholarship was the Iowa Hawkeyes.

"Iowa was one of the first schools to offer me, and I have spoken with Coach (Ron) Aiken and ‘The Boss' (Kirk Ferentz) quite a few times," said Cleveland, who says he calls all head coaches ‘The Boss' because he figures they may serve that role for the next four years of his life.

"Coach Ferentz is a first class guy, and the whole program is a first class operation. It would be fun to play there if everything worked out."

When asked what were the big selling points he had received from the Iowa coaches in selling their program to him, Cleveland said it was more facts than a pitch.

"They have won their conference something like three out of the last four years," Cleveland said. Actually, Iowa has won two Big Ten titles in three years. "They are going to be a competitive program from here on out, and they have a good chance of winning a national championship."

Cleveland's current teammates, Mustain and Williams, actually attended the Iowa Football Camp last summer heading into their junior seasons and told Cleveland they were impressed.

"They didn't say there was anything wrong with Iowa, and in fact, they loved it up there. That is one of the great things about Iowa; it's a place we all could go to play, and we like the idea of playing with each other," Cleveland said.

Iowa has made it a point to target more athletic tight ends that can stretch the field in the Class of 2006, opposite to perhaps recruiting the more conventional tight end, and Cleveland says that is one of his main strengths.

"I can really stretch the field," added Cleveland, who stands 6'4.5 and 235 pounds, also having been timed at 4.75 in the forty yard dash. "I am able to run vertical routes and I use my hands well. I make good breaks out of my routes, and I know how to run them."

Cleveland, along with many of his Springdale teammates, actually returned from a weekend in California. NIKE agreed to pay their way out to their National 7-on-7 camp, where they were only out of state team. It was hosted on the campus of the University of Southern Cal.

"We lost the first game, and if you lost the first game, you only got to play one more. They had the rules set-up there that if you were inside the 20, and the clock ran out, you still could finish your drive. Well, the opposing team scored twice on us because of that rule and ended up winning the game because of that. We didn't have any contact with USC, and really we just went home right after the second game," Cleveland stated.

Cleveland says he hopes to make a few visits before his season starts.

"We have to attend the 7-on-7 camp at Hoover High School, and after that, I'm hoping to make unofficial visits out to Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Clemson, and Iowa. Both Tennessee and South Carolina told me they are going to offer me, otherwise, all the rest have offered me. I have around 15 offers right now," Cleveland said.

Arkansas is also one of those offers, and just like with Mustain and Williams, Cleveland stated they would be a program he strongly considers.

Lastly, I asked Cleveland if he felt confident Mustain and Williams would also make future visits to Iowa City.

"Yeah, I think they both will make their way up there again at some point," Cleveland stated.

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