If an offensive lineman could be built in a lab, Ezra Cleveland would be a prototype.
Gritty? Check. He played in 1,008 of the 1,011 offensive snaps last season at left tackle for Boise State as a redshirt freshman.
Smart? Check. Cleveland earned Academic All-Mountain West honors after the fall semester.
A commanding presence? He is 6-foot-6 and 319 pounds, after all.
“He’s talented, and what I love about Ezra is he has no complacency to him,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He wants to keep improving, whatever challenge you throw at him. He does the work — he’s got the talent behind it, he’s got the smarts behind it. And he’s only continuing getting better.”
Cleveland, a preseason All-Mountain West selection, saw more snaps than any freshman offensive lineman in the nation, according to Pro Football Focus. Only eight linemen in the Football Bowl Subdivision had more snaps than Cleveland.
That earned Cleveland plenty of praise, but it would be hard to tell around the Broncos’ facility. He fits the lineman mold as a man of few words, but a mauler on the field.
“You wouldn’t have known he had any attention. You’d have wondered at times if he was even starting,” offensive line coach Brad Bedell said. “When he does speak, people are going to listen — when he does speak.”
Sure, the Spanaway, Wash., native can be a little quiet, but he also does use those few sentences for maximum effect. “If you met him, you’d crack up — he’s a goober,” junior STUD end Sam Whitney said.
When asked about the importance of protecting a quarterback’s blindside, trying to prevent a rusher from getting a sack, Cleveland made sure to note any sack is bad.
“If a guy’s coming from the right side, it’s definitely a big deal too,” he said.
One of the few freshmen in the nation starting at left tackle, Cleveland beat out senior Archie Lewis when the Broncos opened the 2017 campaign against Troy. He said he gave up too many sacks, especially early last season, and wants to cut down on those while being a physical presence in the run game.
His size and athleticism make him a great fit at the position, but that couldn’t quite prepare him like actually playing.
“Everyone’s bigger than what you think on film,” Cleveland said. “(Guard) John (Molchon) told me before my first game that everyone’s smaller than they look on film. I got out there against Troy and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, he lied to me.’”
Despite Molchon’s unsuccessful effort to calm the guy who lines up next to him, Cleveland said with so many snaps next to one another, he thinks the pair is “really in tune.”
“He’s a phenomenal player, a phenomenal dude on and off the field. He’s done an unbelievable job. I’m really proud of him,” Molchon said.
Cleveland played nose tackle on the defensive line for most of his senior year in high school. He was unsure if he’d even play college football until he started to get offers the previous spring.
Now, he’s a major part of what is expected to be an improved offensive line, what he says is “definitely a good achievement.” Considering the lineage before him — the past five multi-year starting left tackles for the Broncos wound up in the NFL — Cleveland’s potential is exciting.
“Ezra is just an animal now ... battling with him and seeing him and (senior) Jabril Frazier battling has been really interesting,” Whitney said. “He’s just making all of us better, which is cool — and vice versa.”
NEW BANNERS GOING UP
The Boise State athletic department unveiled the four new banners that will be placed on the east side of Albertsons Stadium for the coming season.
They will picture seniors Brett Rypien, Tyler Horton, David Moa and Jabril Frazier with some of the “cornerstone principles” of the football team. All four should be in place at the end of this week, two weeks before the season opens Sept. 1 at Troy. The Broncos turned up the heat to past 90 degrees and watered the indoor practice field Tuesday to simulate the Alabama weather.