Cleveland Enjoying Corners Competition

Tolando Cleveland was a late addition to Mississippi State's 2013 signing class. The Atlanta, Georgia product defected from Georgia Tech to Mississippi State after a shake up with the Yellowjacket's defensive staff. Now a junior, Cleveland is happy with his decision to play in the SEC and for Coach DeShea Townsend. Cleveland has been mentioned as a leading candidate as the Bulldogs' third corner.

"I just hope to fit wherever I am needed," Cleveland said. "I am older now. I am a junior, so I am trying to mentor the younger guys as they learn. I just want to fit in wherever the team has a need. Part of that is helping the younger guys."

The Bulldogs added some talented corners on the class of 2015 with Chris Stamps and Maurice Smitherman both inking with Dan Mullen and his staff. Cleveland reports that the talented duo are impressing early.

"They are much better than I was when I first came in," Cleveland said. "Both of them are talented and they have some size and speed. They are very impressive considering how young they are."

Cleveland reports that he remains a work and progress himself as he does his best to mirror the actions and efforts of the Bulldogs two front line starters Taveze Calhoun and Will Redmond.

"Just being able to learn from Jamerson Love, Taveze (Calhoun) and Will (Redmond) made me a better player last year," Cleveland said. "You learn by seeing their work ethic. You watch how they study the game and see how much the game means to them. Seeing their approach to football at this level just grows on you. You kind of understand it better from watching them."

The Georgia native was a member of the Bulldogs "1B" defense a season ago. Cleveland was able to gain some valuable experience in the SEC and the lessons learned from seeing himself on film has only deepened his resolve to be a better football player.

"I think about every ball that I gave up last year, just any ball that was caught," Cleveland said. "I am just trying to be the best player that I can be. I just try to draw motivation from any of the mistakes last year. Anything that happened on my part is where I want to do a lot better this year."

This year brings a new set of a challenges, new expectations and a new defensive scheme for Mississippi State. Cleveland reports that Manny Diaz has breathed some new life into a defense that is eager to play at a high level this fall.

"We put a lot more pressure on the quarterback now," Cleveland said. "We do some different things this year and hopefully we can get a couple on the back end. Getting more pressure on the quarterback should make things more exciting too. It's a lot of fun."

With LSU backed up in it's own end of the field facing a big deficit, Cleveland broke free on a backside blitz and delivered a blow to the Tigers' quarterback Anthony Jennings that sent many Tiger fans towards the exits.

Cleveland is hopeful to see his number called in similar situations this fall as the Bulldog defense works through it's blitz packages.

"I think we're going to do a lot more of that," Cleveland said. "We lost a couple of guys on the back end, but we still have a lot of depth and experience. We can't do anything, but grow. I think it's going to be exciting. We want to have a lot of fun this year.

"I think we can be as great as we want to be. We just have to put forth that effort. We pride ourselves on giving relentless effort and that's what we plan to keep doing."

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