ATHENS — Georgia football fan favorite “Big Ben” Cleveland was back before the media Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s like Coach (Sam) Pittman says,” Cleveland said, “we (offensive line) have got to start the party.”
Cleveland was talking about the Bulldogs’ one-on-one hitting drills — but he might as well have been talking about the importance of the Georgia line in UGA’s drive for a championship in 2019.
WATCH: Ben Cleveland goes head-to-head with Jordan Davis in hit drill
Cleveland figures to be key, as the 6-foot-6, 335-pounder is finally able to pronounce himself completely healthy from the broken fibula that sidelined him most of last season.
“It was a little tough at the very beginning of spring, just getting back into the feel of things because I hadn’t taken a full-speed rep in six or seven months,” said Cleveland, who’s competing with Cade Mays for the right guard position.
“I think I’ve got some of the rust knocked off it now.”
Cleveland suffered the broken leg bone Sept. 22 at Missouri in the fourth game of the 2018 season. He returned on a very limited basis six games later against Auburn, playing two snaps on the offensive line.
“I tried to push through and tried to fight it, but some things you just can’t control, and that’s one of those things that we didn’t want to push too much,” said Cleveland, whose return was complicated by other injuries.
“Whenever I broke it (fibula) there was some ankle stuff that got messed up in there as well, so it was a never-ending process until everything got healed up together.”
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Cleveland said a strong offseason that included a personal-best 405-pound power clean in the weight room helped him regain his confidence.
“I was definitely a little worried about it coming off that leg, but once I got in there (weight room) and started getting warmed, up everything felt like it was back normal,” Cleveland said.
“It’s great, personally, I don’t feel any difference,” he said. “My teammates can see that.”
They can feel it, too.
“Ben is a competitive guy, he works hard every day and gets after it,” UGA defensive lineman Justin Young said on Tuesday. “Ben is massive, once he gets his hands on you, it’s basically over with.”
But for the offensive line, the party is only getting started.
Georgia football lineman Ben Cleveland
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