How did Mark Richt’s in-home visit with Ben Cleveland go?

UGA head coach Mark Richt speaks with 4-star commitment Ben Cleveland a couple of other recruits at midfield prior to a game this season.

When Mark Richt visited Ben Cleveland last Thursday, they did not eat squirrel. What did they have? What was the visit like?

Derek Cleveland, the father of the 4-star offensive lineman, shared his perspective on the visit with DawgNation, and Richt’s tweet about them having fried squirrel for dinner.

“We all kind of sort of had a chuckle about that when he posted the first tweet about who he was having dinner with,” Derek Cleveland said.

Then he looked at him.

“I said ‘You know what would be funny?’ with that,” Derek Cleveland said. “If you just kind of posted out you were having fried squirrel with us. He just got tickled by it and said that would be hilarious.”

Derek Cleveland wasn’t sure if any more recruits had signed their financial aid papers with UGA, but he did share one piece of huge news for DawgNation.

“I’m not going to say any names, but I know of two silent commitments and we will leave it at that,” he said.

He said Richt reached out to him last week for a chance to come see “Big Boy” in Northeast Georgia. They kept it a secret.

“Ben didn’t have any idea Coach Richt was coming,” Derek Cleveland said. “He had just gotten out of the shower so he was sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanket because he was cool. Coach Richt knocked out the door and he got up.”

Ben Cleveland, the 6-foot-7, 315-pounder with minimal body fat, went to the door. If he had some green paint and purple pants, he could’ve pulled off an Incredible Hulk costume.

“All he had on was a pair of shorts and didn’t have a shirt on,” Derek Cleveland said. “Ben was like ‘Coach Richt?’ and Mark was like ‘Are you going to invite me in?’ and Ben told him to come on in.”

Ben Cleveland went to put a shirt on a few minutes later. They didn’t talk much about football along the visit.

“It was more just talking about family and kind of getting to know us a little bit closer,” Derek Cleveland said.

Derek Cleveland brought home some take-out barbecue with a buffet of chicken, stew and slaw. His wife also baked some dessert. He said Richt ate very well.  

“It was a plus for me when a man who has 13 or 14-hour days every day comes to visit your son,” Derek Cleveland said. “Especially in the season. He took those hours to spend time with us instead of with his own family. That speaks very well of him because as a dad, I know how important family is. I told him we feel like we are an extended family with him, the players and the staff. We’re glad to be a part of that family.”

He added a football angle to that statement.

“He wants Jacob (Eason) and Ben (Cleveland) and these other recruits who have signed their financial aid papers to know how important they are to him,” Derek Cleveland said. “That’s as far as their potential and what they bring to the plate for 2016 and beyond. The visit solidified what we already knew. Coach Richt is a great man and a person. He’s passionate about what he does but also compassionate about the young men he brings into the program.”

Cleveland’s father believed with all his heart that Richt and offensive line coach Rob Sale would be back in 2016. He also thought UGA may sign as many as six offensive linemen in 2016. That would mean three more names go up on the board. UGA currently has commitments from three offensive line prospects.


Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.


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