ATHENS — The return of a healthy Ben Cleveland on the Georgia offensive line could be just the right medicine for the Bulldogs’ unhealthy short-yardage run game.
Georgia’s power game issues have been well-documented following the 0-for-6 performance from the Florida 1-yard line in the Bulldogs’ 36-17 win over the Gators in Jacksonville last Saturday.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart upgraded Cleveland’s status following Tuesday’s practice, making it sound very much like the 6-foot-6, 335-pounder could see action in Saturday’s showdown against Kentucky.
The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1 SEC) play the No. 9-ranked Wildcats (7-1, 5-1) at 3:30 p.m. in Lexington with the SEC East Division and a trip to the SEC Championship Game on the line.
Kentucky has the top scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 13 points per game, and they are 17th in the nation in run defense allowing 108.5 yards per game on the round.
Cleveland would be a key addition to the Georgia lineup.
“We think he’ll be able to help us, but I don’t know if he’ll be out there starting,” Smart said of the right guard. “He may end up being a supplemental role.”
Cleveland has been sidelined since suffering a fractured left fibula in the 43-29 win at Missouri on Sept. 22.
“He’s been sore because he hasn’t done the weight bearing, the running, the hitting, the pads,” Smart explained. “What’s happening is he’s out there, he’s able to practice but he gets sore and the next day it’s like starting over again.”
True freshman Cade Mays has been filling in for Cleveland at right guard and has performed adequately according to most.
But Cleveland brings experience and power to the position like few others and was arguably the Bulldogs best run blocker before suffering the injury.
Georgia’s offensive line was thought to be a team strength at the start of the season, but LSU overwhelmed it at times and the short-yardage issues at Florida were a red flag.
Right tackle Isaiah Wilson is the one Georgia lineman who hasn’t missed snaps this season due to injury.
Here’s an updated injury report following Smart’s Tuesday night availability:
CB Tyson Campbell (shoulder) probable
WR Tyler Simmons (shoulder) probable
OG Ben Cleveland (left fibula) probable
OL Kendall Baker (unknown) probable
DE David Marshall (foot) questionable
DT DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle (unknown) questionable
DB Divaad Wilson (knee) questionable
DT Michail Carter (unknown) out
DB Tray Bishop (internal team issue), out
RB Zamir White (knee), out for season
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart
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