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Preseason Scouting Notes: Ben Cleveland, OG, Georgia

Redshirt Senior | 6’6” 335 lbs | Toccoa, GA | August 25, 1998

 

An old-fashioned mauler in the run game with a thick frame, good strength, and an ‘always find work’ mentality

 

Overview:

Ben Cleveland enters his final season in Athens as the grizzled veteran on the ‘Dawgs offensive line. After losing Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wilson, and Solomon Kindley to the 2020 Draft, as well as Cade Mays to transfer, Cleveland will be the de facto leader on a young unit. He has had a rocky road up until this point, struggling to find a consistent role on what is traditionally a loaded group of hogs. The former 4-star recruit started at Right Guard in the final 5 games of 2017 and the first 4 games of 2018, before suffering a lower leg injury and missing 6 weeks. He never did fully regain his starting job, as he spent 2019 constantly rotating with the now departed Cade Mays at Right Guard. The 2020 season will be Cleveland’s chance to shine, as he can finally settle into the role without having to rotate constantly with someone else.

Strengths:

– Strong initial punch
– Always fighting for good hand placement on the defender’s chest plate
– Constantly looking for someone to block
– Anchor Strength
– Picking up stunts
– Maintaining pocket integrity during pass protection
– Good drive and second level ability
– Stymies bull rush and power moves
– Sustains blocks well and wants to finish them aggressively

Areas To Improve:

– Occasionally plays with high pad level
– Struggles against speed rushers
– Has not shown great ankle flexion up to this point
– Will sometimes throw a forearm flipper instead of a true punch
– Can occasionally lean on defenders and depend on his size rather than form and drive in the run game
– Sometimes resorts to waist bending instead of bending at the knees
– Lacks positional versatility

Injury Concerns:

– Missed 6 games in 2018 with a fractured left fibula.

Projection:

Cleveland has the frame and ability to be a solid guard at the NFL level, but will need to show consistency as a starter to prove it. As a week-in, week-out starter in a new offense, Cleveland (and the entire UGA offense) will be under a microscope from professionals and fans alike. Cleveland profiles best in a run-heavy, power offense currently, much like he has played in up until this point. However, with the Dawgs adopting what many expect to be a more pass-heavy attack, he should have the chance to prove his worth in a more passing oriented offense as well. Cleveland has Day 2 upside in his game, but currently sits as a mid-to-early Day 3 pick.

What To Watch In 2020:

The main question Cleveland will have to answer is whether or not he can consistently perform at a high level.  The measureables and ability are there without a doubt, but the game performance, while not bad by any means, has not quite measured up to the potential. He needs to address the subtleties of blocking, and show improvement in the less obvious aspects of his game. As one of two veterans on the UGA line, there will be large expectations placed upon his shoulders, but he will have the chance to prove his worth and elevate his draft stock as a result.