ATHENS — It took longer than some expected, but Ben Cleveland, the team’s top offensive line recruit a year ago, is in the starting lineup for the first time at Georgia.
Cleveland was announced as the starting right guard and was with the first team during warm-ups before No. 7 Georgia hosted Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. Solomon Kindley was with the second team.
Kindley started seven games at right guard, and the three games he didn’t start were mostly because of a right ankle injury that slowed him. Georgia’s offensive line, considered the main concern heading into the season, had been successful.
After the Bulldogs struggled to run and pass block in the loss last week at Auburn, the coaches gave Cleveland a shot at practice.
Cleveland is listed at 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds. He was a 5-star recruit and early enrollee in 2016, but Cleveland redshirted last season. He was on the second team this season, mainly at right tackle.
Evidently, Georgia coaches decided to give Cleveland a shot inside to try to get a push in the interior run game, perhaps with an eye on the SEC Championship Game in two weeks against either Auburn or Alabama.
That said, Kindley isn’t much smaller, weighing in at 330 pounds. He is 3 inches shorter than Cleveland. Kendall Baker, who has started nine consecutive games at left guard, is as tall as Cleveland but “only” 287 pounds. Baker is back with the first team at left guard in warm-ups.