ATHENS — Georgia’s “Big Ben” Cleveland held court with the media Tuesday afternoon, relaxed but enthusiastic as he shared developments on the offensive and defensive fronts.
While it’s true that most follow the football during the course of play and are thus most familiar with skill position players, the Bulldogs’ “Great Wall” offensive line have become their own celebrities.
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Certainly Cleveland, a 6-foot-6, 335-pounder with the beard and accent one might associate with a mountain man, has his own following.
Cleveland, however, makes it clear he’s just happy to be a part of something bigger and is humbled by the talent that surrounds him.
“We’re reminded of it every day, realizing that everyone is replaceable because we have so much talent,” Cleveland said. “One guy can get pushed out just as easy as the next, so we think about it constantly, just how great our coaches have done bringing new guys in and putting guys where they need to be.”
Cleveland appears to be holding down the starting job at right guard, with sophomore Cade Mays rotating in behind him in addition to getting snaps at center.
“Cade has been getting some reps at center, (and) rotating us in and out, which is allowing Cade to learn another position and allowing him to learn the right guard spot a little bit better, understanding defenses and what they do,” Cleveland said. “So you know it’s for the benefit of the team, having both of us rotate in and out like that.”
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Cleveland said there have been some defensive linemen and pass rushers that have already impressed him early in fall camp.
Defensive linemen, everybody is improving,” Cleveland said. “I know Jordan Davis is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in right now.
“One of the young guys, Nolan Smith, he’s making insane progress, just doing what he’s coached to do. All the freshmen D-Lineman are being very coachable and taking what we give them.”
Freshman defensive lineman Travon Walker has opened some eyes, too.
“He’s definitely quick, that’s one thing that some offensive lineman struggle handling, is just a quick D-Lineman, someone coming through a gap,” Cleveland said. “(Walker) has definitely got that working for him. He’s got really good hands and really good feet, and just like all the other young guys, he’s being very coachable and taking what we give him.”