When Ole Miss Wide Receivers Coach Ron Dickerson first arrived on campus last December, he sought out rising senior wideout Mike Wallace.
"I told him I had heard he was a little selfish and not really into a team concept as much as he needed to be," said Dickerson. "I told him I needed a leader, not a lone wolf, and I needed it to be him. We talked a long time. At the end of the talk, he shook my hand and said 'let's go to work,' and from that minute on I couldn't have asked for a better leader.
"Mike has done everything I have asked of him and more. Not only is he a fantastic team player, he has improved his skills as well. He was known as just a deep threat previously, but now his intermediate game and all-around game are just as good because he worked on what he needed to improve and got it done. He has been a perfect example to all the other wideouts as well."
Blessed with a lot of ability, the wide receivers just needed a guiding hand to tie all the loose ends together. Enter Ron Dickerson.
"Overall, we've had a really, really good camp. Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers have really stepped up to put some pressure on Mike and Shay Hodge, and Dexter (McCluster) is just so unique and in a category by himself," Dickerson noted. "That gives me a very good and solid five-man rotation right now and we've got a couple of others - Andrew Harris and Jacarious Lucas - who are doing some good things and working their way into playing time.
"I feel we have five guys who could play for a lot of teams in the country. We are blessed."
Dexter, said Dickerson, has it all. Ron expects him to impart the "McCluster Fluster" on a lot of defensive backs this year.
"He's fast, quick, elusive, tough, and he has great leaping ability so you don't know how to play him," Ron assessed. "If you press him, he will run right by you. If you play zone, he's smart enough to find holes and make you pay that way. You are talking about a great athlete who is also a very smart football player. That's Dex.
"He's worked very hard because we ask him to do a lot of different things in our offensive scheme and he's picked it all up."
Coach Houston Nutt has stated several times the coaching staff has tried to stress to Dexter that discretion is the better part of valor and Dickerson says his pupil is learning that.
"I've talked about that with all my guys, but especially Dexter. You have to know when to go for the extra yard, when to get out of bounds and when to lay down. We stress that when we watch film and when we are practicing - make the smart decisions to live to play another play," Ron noted. "Dexter also put on a little extra weight in the offseason. We are taking every precaution to make sure he makes it through the season healthy, but he also likes the physical part of football, so he's had to learn to be selective."
One of Ron's goals in fall camp, after grading all the spring film and watching his guys closely during that limited time frame, was to help them all become more complete and all-around wideouts.
"That development has gone very well. Mike was known as just a deep threat. He has the speed and will always have that in his arsenal, but if you play off of him, his intermediate and short game has really stepped up. He's making good breaks and catching the ball in his hands," Dickerson said. "He lacked an intermediate game, but now he has it.
"If you timed Shay in the 40, he's not near as fast as the other two, but he plays very fast. There's a difference in being fast and playing fast. What I've tried to do is play them all at every WR position so they could get a feel for different skill sets and work on where they have deficiencies."
Dickerson mentions Breaux and Summers everytime he ges an opportunity to talk about his group. Specifically, what has caught his eye about those two?
"Lionel is kind of like Dexter in that he can stretch you vertically with his speed but he can also come out of his breaks and make you miss," Dickerson stated. "If you don't give him respect, he can take you deep any time. I've worked him a lot in Dexter's position, just in case, and we really don't lose a lot when Lionel is in his spot. He has stepped up and done a great job.
"Markeith is unique because he has all the attributes of all the guys we have talked about - size, speed, good hands and he can make you miss in space. In time, because of his God-given ability, he may end up being the best of all of them. He can do it all and has worked hard to prove his value to the group."
Dickerson also praised Lucas.
"In a heartbeat, I wouldn't have any problem putting him in a game," Ron said. "He had some academic work to do this summer, but that's cleared up now and we are working to get him ready for the season."
Harris came from prep school but he's still a freshman with all the first-year obstacles to overcome.
"Drew is backing up Mike and Shay and is doing some things well. It's a lot to put on a freshman, but when he gets something, he performs well," Dickerson added. "He's big, strong and he can make things happen in sets he's comfortable in.
Wide receiver is only one end of the passing game. Chemistry with the quarterbacks is also critical to make the whole thing click.
"I've told Jevan (Snead) to get on my guys if they do something wrong. Our mentality is to not drop a ball and if you do, there are consequences," Dickerson stated. "Our mentality is also that if we get thrown a bad ball, go get it anyway and make the QB look like an All-American. The timing was a key issue and we have worked on that. I don't see any problems with that right now.
"When Jevan goes home at night, he doesn't have to lose any sleep about the wideouts being in the right place at the right time. I think he has confidence in my guys. There have been times when I have questioned why he's throwing where he is, but then we get a catch and a big gain and you see it's because he has confidence these guys are going to come down with the ball and make something happen. There is a strong belief between the wide receivers and the quarterbacks."
Ron Dickerson -
OM Spirit Top Stories
Who's In the Running for LB Monty Rice?Monty Rice makes a lot of noise on the field with his play at linebacker, but off the field, he likes to stay quiet. The talented linebacker has cut his list of schools, so who…
Scout Football5:55 AM
Does New Offer Change Things for Burley?Jeffery Burley has been committed to Wake Forest since July, but an offer from an SEC school this week has him re-thinking things. Get the latest on Burley here...
Scout Football5:40 AM
Freeze Frames: Players Meeting and MoreOle Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Wednesday to preview Auburn, as well as discuss the recent players-only meeting, the development of Charles Wiley and more.
OM SpiritYesterday at 4:21 PM
Inside the Matchup: Auburn vs Ole MissThe Tigers and Rebels square off from Oxford
Scout CFBYesterday at 1:15 PM