TOCCOA, Ga. — One of UGA’s top recruits has been suspended from school for 10 days and will find out this week whether or not he will be able to resume his senior year of high school football.
Ben Cleveland, a 4-star prospect from Stephens County, is considered one of the cornerstones of UGA’s 2016 recruiting class. The senior is rated as one of the nation’s top 10 offensive linemen and has been committed to UGA for more than a year.
The 6-foot-7, 315-pounder has missed his last two games and been suspended since an undisclosed incident occurred at Stephens County High School on Sept. 29. He is awaiting clearance to return to school and his team.
When contacted by the AJC’s DawgNation.com on Tuesday evening, Cleveland’s father declined to reveal the details of the situation but said it could be resolved by the end of this week.
“He has been in full cooperation with all parties involved the entire time,” Derek Cleveland said. “He is caught up with a technicality within the system that must be worked out.”
Rumors have been swirling about Cleveland after his unexplained absence from his team’s last two football games. Cleveland’s father told DawgNation.com that his family has been in communication with UGA’s coaches about the situation.
“He has not played since September 29,” Derek Cleveland said. “There is due diligence that must play out from a circumstance that happened at school that day. He has not been arrested despite some rumors. The situation is being handled in-house per school procedures. I expect this situation to be handled and him to be back on the field sooner rather than later. Coach (Mark) Richt and Coach (Rob) Sale are both aware of what is going on and they support him 100 percent.”
Cleveland joined 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason as the first members of UGA’s 2016 recruiting class back in July of 2014. Cleveland is one of the most popular members of the class and plans to graduate early in December in order to enroll at UGA in January.
Dawgnation.com conducted brief meetings on Tuesday with Stephens County High School principal Sandy Steele and system superintendent Bryan Dorsey. They said they would have no comment regarding the matter and cited student privacy laws
Cleveland is currently rated as the No. 9 offensive tackle prospect in the nation and the No. 58 overall prospect for his signing class
The senior has been so firmly committed to UGA that he has not taken any official or unofficial visits to other colleges. He told DawgNation.com back in July that he hadn’t heard from a recruiter at another program in months.
“Based on everything I am hearing I do not see this affecting him at UGA with his entrance in January,” Derek Cleveland said. “We could know something … no later than Thursday, but he must go through a county-wide policy to get cleared.”
Derek Cleveland said the lengthy suspension, along with being away from his classmates and teammates, has taken an emotional toll on his son.
“He cried every night for the three or four days after it happened because he couldn’t understand why this has happened to him,” his father said. “He’s tried so hard to do everything he could the right way.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.