August 17, 2006
McCluster equals instant offense
For one Ole Miss Football player the transition from high school to college has definitely been an interesting experiment, one that is starting to pay dividends for both the player and the Rebel's offense.
Dexter McCluster played running back for his Largo (FL) High School last fall and is now finding himself vying for a starting position at wide receiver at Ole Miss.
"It's been fun," McCluster said at the Ole Miss Media Day. "The Ole Miss Coaches told me when they recruited me that they were going to give me a chance at wide receiver because they needed help at that position. The transition hasn't been bad, I had never played the position, but I'm an athlete and I'm getting better every day at playing wide out."
McCluster's assessment of getting better everyday might be a slight understatement but something that his college coaches definitely agree on.
"If we were playing today, Dexter would be one of our starting wide receivers," Ed Orgeron said at his press conference. "He continues to make big plays everyday in practice and has had a great camp."
Another area that McCluster is expected excel in for the Rebels is in the special teams area. He proved Saturday in the Rebel's first scrimmage that he is electric and can make big things happen when he touches the football.
McCluster took a kickoff sixty five yards for a touchdown, showing his teammates and coaches what his high school coach already knew.
In a previous interview with Largo (FL) head coach Rick Rodriguez he had this to say about McCluster.
Rodriguez calls McCluster "instant offense."
"Every time he touches the ball, something is going to happen. It's as simple as that," Rodriguez said. "He can make a good play out of a bad play."
In the opening game of the season, McCluster racked up 214 yards on just 12 carries. He had three touchdowns, including a 76-yard kickoff return.
"He has the best vision I have ever seen in 27 years of coaching," Rodriguez said.
The old saying that big things come in small packages may also apply to McCluster, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160-pounds. McCluster is learning that at the college level he must be at the top of his game and fundamentals and use everything at his disposal to get an advantage.
"Coach (Matt) Lubick is teaching me great technique and how to use my speed to my advantage even when I'm blocking downfield," McCluster said. "I know that with my size that I'm not going to physically dominate a defender, but if I use great technique I can help big running plays happen."
While McCluster may be small, he is also very strong for his size.
"I have always been in great shape and work out a lot," McCluster said. "I'm stronger than most guys my size. I'm focused on working as hard as I can to learn the offense, and to improve my game every day."
McCluster rushed to the phone after Saturday's scrimmage to call his parents and friends and tell them about his first college touchdown.
"They were very excited to hear about my kickoff return," McCluster said. "They never imagined me playing wide receiver, everyone seemed to be surprised at first, but they know that I do well in whatever I choose to do. My parents are coming up for Saturday's scrimmage; I have to score another so they can see in person."
McCluster has been impressed with Ole Miss since his arrival and has gained a lot of respect for the Rebel coaching staff.
"A lot of coaches will tell you anything while recruiting you to get you to their school," McCluster said. "Everything Coach Orgeron and Coach Lubick told me has been 100 percent correct. They told me upfront that if I wanted to see the field early I would have to be willing to play wide receiver, but they were willing to give me a chance to earn a starting role. That's exactly what they have done, I appreciate and respect that a lot."
Respect is also a two way street and McCluster has earned the respect of his coaches during fall camp.
"Dexter has had a great camp," wide receiver coach Lubick said. "He shows us on a daily basis that he can make big plays. His transition from being a running back to wide out has been a lot better than I ever expected. More importantly Dexter is such a quality person of high character. He gets to meetings early, he stays late and watches film on his own and has worked his way into the starting rotation on our team."
McCluster loves playing on special teams and is looking forward to the opportunity of returning kick offs and punts for the Rebels.
"I know that every time I return a kick off or punt that I have the chance to change the tempo of the game," McCluster. "I love have that responsibility in my hands, I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity I have to make something special happen for my Ole Miss team."
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