Dexter McCluster

Ole Miss wanted to upgrade the speed and talent at wide receiver in the last recruiting year. They signed several high-profile WRs, but it's a former prep running back - one Dexter McCluster - who is stealing the show in fall camp. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss freshman Wide Receiver Dexter McCluster has a personality that bubbles out of every pore in his body.

He's polite, articulate and lights up whenever the talk - which it usually does - turns to football.

"I've always had passion for football," he said in a recent interview. "I've wanted to be a college football player since I was a little kid."

In high school, he was a successful running back at Largo (FL) High School, gaining nearly 2,500 yards and scoring 39 times his senior season.

He would have preferred to stay at RB in college, but at 5-9, 170 pounds, he kind of knew in his heart he would be moved out wide.

"I could do it. I could play RB in college. I know I could," he said, "but we have some really good backs here and I just want to get on the field and help the team."

He couldn't wait to get to Ole Miss this summer to make his mark immediately. The whispers about him in the offseason workouts grew louder and louder, finally into a full-fledged yell.

"Man, he's the real deal," said senior OG Andrew Wicker. "We all learned in spring that (freshman WR) Marshay (Green) is very quick. Dexter is quicker. I know that's saying a lot, but it's true. And what I really like about him is that he's always full of energy and always trying to get to the front of the line in every drill and in everything we do."

Dexter's plan all along was to make a splash. Because of his size, he's been proving he belongs in football ever since he first put pads on when he was in pee-wee football.

"I don't even consider size," Dexter said. "That's what other people worry about. I know I'm small, but I use the strengths I have - speed and quickness - to get the job done."

It didn't take long for McCluster to catch the eye of the Rebel coaches either. He's been mentioned as a number one WR with Green and Mike Wallace for most of the preseason camp.

"I came in here with the thought of working my way to the top and doing whatever I had to do to get on the field. Returns, wide receiver, running back, special teams. It doesn't matter to me," he explained. "Nobody is going to outwork me. That's my goal."

McCluster hasn't played a single game yet, but already his name is coming out of the mouths of everyone associated with Ole Miss football.

"What I was worried about was his hands because he's played running back his whole career," said WR Coach Matt Lubick. "Dexter has great hands - excellent hands. He's got natural, soft hands. He converted to a wide receiver as naturally as possible."

As each day ticks off and McCluster learns more and more abotu the ins and outs of WR play, he gets more and more comfortable with the task ahead.

"Everything has stayed on a high note so far. I've worked ahrd to learn the position and the plays. It takes time to get things down pat, but I'm getting there and I feel good about my progress," Dexter said. "I'm starting to get my reads down and I'm starting to understand route adjustments based on coverages. I try to get as much extra time in as I can with Coach Lubick and the quarterbacks. I'm trying to soak everything in."

One major adjustment McCluster has had to make was learning how to block. It's not a size thing with him - it's the fact he's never done it before.

"I don't mind mixing it up with guys bigger than me out there. I've been doing that my whole life, but I've never had to block before, so I am having to learn goot technique and positioning," he continued. "The wide receivers in this system have to block in the running game. Your block can be the key block on any play so you have to get it done.

"I have to use good technique. I know I'm not going to overpower many people, but that's not what blocking is all about. It's making sure the guy you are supposed to block doesn't make the play. Get in the way, slow him down, whatever you have to do to get him out of the play."

Dexter is happy with his ball skills.

"If you are an athlete, you should be able to catch a ball. That's pretty basic, to me," he noted. "I am confident in my hands.

"I knew several months ago that I would be moved to wide receiver, so I started working on my hands as soon as I was told I would be moved."

Right now, it not only appears Dexter will be in the WR rotation, he could very well be the number one target on the team, but he still has a dream in the back of his head.

"WR is working out very well for me. I also think I'm going to be able to make a mark in the return game," he closed, "but I sure would like a shot at running back sometime in my college career.

"If it never works out there, that's fine. My first goal is to be on the field, but I still consider myself a running back."

And from what we know about Dexter McCluster, who wears a running back number (22), don't be surprised if one day you see him fulfill his dream.

We've seen nothing he can't do on the football field to this point.

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