Mississippi State’s Tolando Cleveland made his first career start last weekend against Southern Miss.
Although it was a bit of a milestone, the junior cornerback felt comfortable in that role due to the wealth of experience he received during the previous two seasons.
“My main focus was to just handle my job,” Cleveland said. “It wasn’t as big of a deal because I’d gotten to play a lot last year and had some experience. I just wanted to handle my job, take care of business and get the win.”
Cleveland tied for second on the team with seven tackles in the season opener filling in for injured starter Taveze Calhoun. Even though Calhoun is expected to be back against LSU this week, Cleveland is preparing to play just as he did in Week 1.
“You never know what’s going to happen so you’ve got to be ready in every situation and circumstance,” Cleveland said.
Southern Miss was able to find success through the air against the Bulldogs last week throwing for 311 yards. But MSU only allowed one touchdown, had a pair of interceptions and only allowed 103 second half passing yards.
“They threw some things at us and in a first game there’s always things that you can grow on,” Cleveland said. “There were positives and negatives from that first game. What you can take from that is you can always get better.”
The Bulldogs go into this weekend with a bit of unknown as LSU’s season opener was canceled due to lightning. Cleveland and the cornerbacks are game planning against the Tigers’ past tendencies.
“We know that LSU likes to run the ball then take some shots so we plan on defending the end zone in any and every way,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland wasn’t always expected to factor into the MSU secondary. The 6-foot, 190-pounder from Powder Springs, Ga., was initially committed to Georgia Tech during the recruiting process. The former three-star prospect had a change of heart and flipped his pledge just days before signing day in 2013.
“I was thinking about my future and what was best for me,” Cleveland said. “I feel like I did what was best for me and found a place that would put me in a position to play. Leadership from the coaches, I just felt more comfortable here. It’s played out in a good way and I’m blessed for that.”
Cleveland went on to play in a dozen games as a true freshman and has now appeared in 26 games total. He has racked up 45 tackles, 2 ½ for loss, a half-sack and two interceptions during his career.