Dexter McCluster is a name that is probably not being talked about outside of the SEC, except maybe in a few late January meetings in Lubbock Texas. Inside the SEC though is another story. At 5’-8” and 165 pounds, McCluster is the little player that could for the Ole Miss Rebels.
First I will start with the obvious, the statistics. As the quarterback in the “Wild Rebel” formation, McCluster churned out 655 yards rushing last season for an average of a little over six yards per carry. This may not sound like a lot of rushing yards but considering that Ole Miss spread out the rushing duties between four regular running backs and a plethora of others getting touches, it begins to look like a monster number. Throw in that Ole Miss was second in the SEC in rushing yards per game and third in the SEC in total rushing yards, it is clear to see that McCluster is part of a potent rushing attack.
Dexter is not a running back though, he is a wide receiver, so let’s take a look at some receiving numbers. McCluster was third on the team in receiving yards with 44 catches for 625 yards and a touchdown. Ole Miss was the fourth team in passing yards per game in the conference and they return almost the entire receiving corps except Mike Wallace.
McCluster’s 1280 total yards in 2008 places him in seventh place in the SEC for all purpose yards, and accounts for almost 25 percent of Ole Miss’ 5296 total yards in 2008. One man standing just a mere 5’-8” is responsible for one fourth of the third-best offense in the SEC. Numbers are boring though, when examining Dexter’s impact on the Ole Miss Football team you have to look for something other than stats. In some coaching circles, it could be called an “X” factor, to me it is the "McCluster factor".
I really wish I could put my finger on it and relay to you what or how this kid does what he does, I can’t do that though. Is it his uncanny vision of the field? I don’t know about that since I already told you he was only 5’-8” tall, how can he see the field so good? Is it his speed? His slipperiness? All of those things help, but it is my opinion that the McCluster factor is more than that.
I am going to go out on a limb and state my reason for the McCluster Factor. It is a personality thing. It is something inside him that makes him want to always do better. Dexter has never once made excuses for any of his mistakes, he just goes out onto the practice field and gets better. At the beginning of 2008 Dexter could not hold onto the football, he fumbled so often that this fan was almost scared to see him get the ball, but he fixed it. How did he fix it? His attitude towards practice and learning fixed it. By the end of the 2008 season there wasn’t a fan in the stands that wasn’t anxiously anticipating the next time Dex got his hands on the ball. We wanted to know just what he would do next.
The rest of the nation got to see the McCluster factor in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, where Dexter was awarded the Sanford Trophy for the Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game with his 180 total yard performance. I will be interested to see how opposing defenses key on Dexter for the 2009 season, with him you have to allow for so many variables that he is a preparation nightmare for Defensive Coordinators.
I may not be able to exclaim “Eureka” with my analysis of the McCluster factor, but the truth sure can’t be found on a statistics sheet. It is in his heart. Any fan that has any knowledge of the game at all can watch him on the field and see that he just wants to be there. Dexter McCluster is exactly who I think of when I think of team players. He puts the well being of the team far above his own stats, but in doing so he gets the most out of it.
Will Dex make it to the next level? My answer to that is if Warrick Dunn can make it in professional football then I think Dexter McCluster will as well. Can Dexter help bring a Southeastern Conference Championship to Oxford? The answer to that is a passionate yes. Dexter McCluster is a champion spark-plug, a die-hard battery, the Energizer Bunny, and the Little Engine That Could all rolled into one for the Ole Miss Rebels. No doubt about it. Until Next Time....Hotty Toddy!
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