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Ben Cleveland won SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play against South Carolina.

Kirby Smart praises Ben Cleveland as senior OL wins SEC honors once again

The Georgia offensive line had a big turnaround this past week against South Carolina. After the Bulldogs ran for just eight yards against Mississippi State, Georgia came out and ran for a season-best 332 yards against South Carolina.

It was a return to form for the group and on Monday, Ben Cleveland was recognized as the SEC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play against the Gamecocks. It is the second time this season Cleveland has taken home the award, as he won the honor against Auburn.

Cleveland earned a grade of 90 against South Carolina and registered five knockdowns.

This coming Saturday game against Vanderbilt figures to be Cleveland’s final home game as a Bulldog, as he is a fifth-year senior and has accepted an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Cleveland has started 24 games for the Bulldogs including all eight this season for Georgia. His head coach Kirby Smart said that the experience Cleveland now has helps make him one of Georgia’s best offensive linemen.

“Everybody wants the freshman O-lineman to be the best, the five-star to come in,” Smart said. “But on the offensive line, the number of times he’s seen games and pass-offs and twists, he knows what they’re going to do before they do it. He’s got great size.”

The end to Cleveland’s junior season did not go the way he would’ve hoped as he was splitting starts with Cade Mays. He then missed the Sugar Bowl due to being academically ineligible to play in the game.

But Smart added that this extra year has helped Cleveland become a better player. Even after the coaching change from Sam Pittman to Matt Luke on the offensive line.

“He’s been a really good leader for that unit,” Smart said. “He’s been a tremendous leader for our team and he’s got a bright future. He’s a guy that didn’t like the information he got last year and he’s going to like the information he gets this year better, in terms of where he is as an NFL prospect.”

Georgia has had an offensive lineman taken in each of the past three NFL drafts, with three of them being first-round draft picks in Isaiah Wynn, Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson. Cleveland is one of two players from Smart’s first signing class in 2016 that is still with the team, with the other being defensive lineman Julian Rochester.

The senior from Toccoa, Ga., will be one of the many seniors honored on Saturday, though Georgia will not have its traditional senior day activities due to the pandemic.

The game against Vanderbilt is set for a 4 p.m. ET kickoff on Saturday. The SEC Network will broadcast the game.

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