June 18, 2013

Cleveland not your typical teen

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Scholarship offers are going out earlier and earlier these days, but it isn't all that common for prospect to get one before the start of his sophomore season.

But then again, Stephens County offensive lineman Ben Cleveland isn't your typical 14-year-old.

Cleveland doesn't turn 15 until late August, but he is already 6-foot-6, 328 pounds and holds offers from the likes of Clemson, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and, after working out for Georgia coaches on Friday, UGA.

"It was just me and my parents that made the trip and we knew Coach (Mark) Richt was going to want to talk to us," Cleveland said. "After camp, we went up to his office, and everybody was just so hospitable. They treated us like we belonged. We walked up to Coach Richt's office and he introduced himself and said that he wanted to just cut to chase and said 'I would like to offer you a scholarship to UGA.'"

So what did the star underclassman think of the Bulldogs' offer?

"It was really cool because it is my home state team. I was really excited about it," he said. "Everybody around here is a Georgia fan. I'm not a huge college football fan but I like Georgia. It was a big deal for everyone around here and it was a big deal for me too. It is close to home and I really like the school too."

While Georgia didn't offer until they say Cleveland work out in person on Friday, the staff has been recruiting him longer than that, and he is familiar with the UGA program and coaches.

"Coach Friend has been in contact with my coaches a lot because he can't contact me directly right now because of the recruiting rules," Cleveland said. "They (my coaches) have kept me informed on Georgia and how they like me. I really like Coach Friend. I think a lot of him as a football coach because he knows what he is doing out there. I really like the way he coaches. He is very similar to how much coaches coach me now and he was really critiquing my technique and not teaching me a lot of new stuff. I could tell he knew what he was doing."

Holding five BCS offers is impressive for any prospect and it is especially extraordinary when you consider that the Toccoa native isn't old enough to drive yet.

Out of those offers he currently holds, he says that two are already starting to stand out.

"Right now, Georgia and Clemson stand out to me," he said. "They are close to home and really good football programs. Them being close to home sets them apart from the rest because my parents are going to want to watch me play and it would be great if they don't have to travel to watch me play."

The process is just getting started for the mammoth youngster and he says he has no plans of when he will end his recruitment.

In the mean time, however, Cleveland is just happy to be in this position.

"It's really cool. It is just that I'm the first freshman at my school that has ever got an offers like this and everybody around the town watches football on Friday night and everybody knows the players, so it is really cool," Cleveland said. "It is really unique. It's a big honor for me."

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