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DL Dante Cleveland enters NCAA transfer portal after discussion with Jim McElwain

Central Michigan defensive lineman Dante Cleveland signs his autorgraph for a member of the Kids Clinic on April 13 at the Indoor Athletic Complex.

First-year Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain sat down with defensive lineman Dante Cleveland following the conclusion of spring camp.

McElwain gave Cleveland two options – transfer or move to the inactive roster.

Just a few weeks after the ultimatum was presented, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive tackle announced his entry into the NCAA transfer portal

Cleveland, who was on scholarship, said he was pushed out to make room for new players that McElwain wanted on the roster.

"Business is business," Cleveland said. "I know I can play, and I just need an opportunity."

Entering the transfer portal does not mean a player is guaranteed to transfer, but it gives them an option to look elsewhere. Essentially, other programs are now allowed to contact Cleveland.

Most players that enter the NCAA transfer portal depart from their current university, and Cleveland made it clear that he does not plan to return to CMU.

Fresh out of Hoffman Estates High School in Illinois, Cleveland came to CMU prior to the 2016 season after making 33 tackles and eight sacks in five games as a senior. He had 55 tackles and 12 sacks as a junior.

Originally under former coach John Bonamego, Cleveland took a redshirt in 2016. He was injured in 2017 and 2018 with a Jones fracture – a break between the base and middle part of the fifth metatarsal of the foot.

But Cleveland said he's been fully healthy since McElwain arrived. Due to the redshirt year and injuries, Cleveland has three years of eligibility remaining.

"I’ve had to overcome some injuries but I’m back healthy now," Cleveland said. "All I need is an opportunity."

Cleveland is unsure what schools he might consider, and he doesn't know if he will end up in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision or Division II.

Since he's been injured, Cleveland has sat back and learned from the likes of defensive ends Joe Ostman and Mike Danna, along with former defensive coordinator Greg Colby and former defensive line coach George Ricumstrict.

Ostman just completed his rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles, while Danna recently transferred to Michigan for his final year of eligibility.

"I’m a coachable player that will get the job done," Cleveland said. "I’ve learned a lot from former players and coaches."

Cleveland left CMU fans, coaches and players with one final message: "Thank you for the opportunity. Fire up."

Danna was lost to Michigan through the NCAA transfer portal in February. The defensive end will graduate from CMU on May 4 and is considered a graduate transfer, so he will get immediate eligibility with the Wolverines.

Danna made 65 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two touchdowns for the Chippewas in 2018. The 6-foot-2, 257-pound lineman was a member of the All-Mid-American Conference First Team defense.

Julian Hicks, CMU's top returning wide receiver, is also in the transfer portal. Despite being reached, Hicks did not agree to comment on his decision.

During the 2018 season, Hicks emerged as a key wide receiver option for the Chippewas. He played in nine games, making 28 receptions for 313 yards and four touchdowns.