Everything Ole Miss sophomore Wide Receiver/KOR/PR Dexter McCluster does is fast.
He talks fast. He runs fast.
But last year, after a vicious hit on the opening kickoff return in the Vanderbilt game, he didn't heal fast.
Now, Dexter, who burst on the scene with a scintillating game in his collegiate debut in the season opener against Memphis, is ready to test the healing process.
"Right now, I'm being held out of contact work in spring drills, but I hope to get some contact in before spring is over," said McCluster, who became an instant fan favorite with 268 all-purpose yards versus the Tigers, only to see his season cut short in the sixth game. "I'm anxious to get back in the swing of things, all the way.
"I feel real good. I feel great just to be out here doing anything after the layoff I had. I'll do what the doctors and trainers tell me to, but I'm excited this injury ordeal is almost over."
Dexter took the crushing hit, delivered by 6-4, 240-pound Commodore LB Jonathan Goff, on October 7.
Each week, he would express to the media that he would be back "next week," but it never materialized.
"It was very frustrating for me because I always thought I would come back," said McCluster, who had shoulder and neck damage that resulted in rumored nerve damage that took time to heal and "regenerate."
"I just kept working on it, but it never seemed to get right until after the season."
Dexter, through six games, had shown an uncommon elusiveness in his game. Quickness and speed were his two main weapons.
At the time of his injury, Dexter had rushed eight times for 68 yards (8.5 average) and 1 TD. He had caught 15 passes for 232 yards (15.5 avg.) and 1 touchdown and he had returned 13 kickoffs for 274 yards (21.1 avg.).
"I felt like I was just starting to get the hang of a lot of things on this level," said McCluster, who hit the ground running with an uncanny work ethic that drew praise from his coaches early on. "I was starting to understand coverages and get the feel for the speed of the game."
He understands the cautious nature of his trainers and doctors, but he's ready for the red light on contact to change to green.
"Our medical staff is looking out for my best interest, which I appreciate, but I'm mentally ready to go whenever they tell me I can," he continued. "I'm not worried, I'm not scared, I'm not concerned. I just want to get going again.
"I have all the confidence in the world that the injury will not change the way I approach the game. I only know one way to play football. Injuries happen. You get over them and move on. In fact, I'm ready to get out there and hit somebody."
Dexter said he doesn't think he has any rust to shake off due to his participation in the offseason.
"The only thing I haven't done that everyone else has is contact. I went through all the strength and conditioning stuff in the offseason and I went through all the seven-on-seven passing drills. I think I'm stronger than I was last year and I know I'm just as fast," he noted.
The only thing not on schedule is his hoped-for offseason weight gain.
"I'm still in the 160-165 range due to not being able to work out during the season after the injury. I wasn't able to put on the muscle I wanted to. I was hoping to be in the 170 range, but it's coming slowly," he explained.
Dexter is "excited" about the slow-but-sure progress he's seen in the passing game.
"Our quarterbacks now know what they have to do and are tuned in. I can tell a difference in their confidence in terms of knowing what to do and the same holds true with the receivers. We were real young last year, but we have some experience now," Dexter added. "I think you will see a real difference in the passing game next year. We aren't there yet, but we are getting there.
"Everyone seems real focused, ready to learn and get on the same page. We are looking at this as a 'no excuses' deal now. Youth cannot be an excuse any more."
You won't see much in the practice reports this spring concerning Dexter McCluster, but rest assured he's working to be ready in August.
"I'll be there and I'll be ready," he declared.
Dexter McCluster update -
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