Dynamic Dexter

Frank Wilson saw something that caught his eye while watching Largo (Fla.) High School standout Dexter McCluster in 2005. Unfortunately for Tennessee, Wilson saw the same thing last Saturday.

Now the first-year receivers coach for the Vols, Wilson was running backs coach at Ole Miss when the Rebels recruited McCluster in '05. Thanks to academic issues and a 5-9, 165-pound frame, McCluster was not in great demand at the time.

"He was a 2-star, 3-star kid," Wilson recalled this week. "He was not heavily recruited out of Largo, Florida. It wasn't very hard to get him because he wasn't highly touted."

The more he watched McCluster, however, the more convinced Wilson became that the diminutive dynamo was the proverbial diamond in the rough.

"He had exceptional speed, great change of direction, vision, balance – all of the things you want in a skill guy," Wilson recalled.

Wilson helped convince Ed Orgeron, then Ole Miss' head coach, that McCluster was worthy of a Rebel scholarship, even though the only other major college to offer was South Florida. Orgeron agreed, then convinced McCluster to boost his grades via some on-line courses.

Once McCluster got his grades, Wilson got his diamond in the rough.

"I brought him in specifically as a returner and receiver, and he evolved into a multi-position player for them," Wilson recalled. "I always thought he was a special player."

McCluster didn't look so special in 2006, rushing for 68 yards and catching 15 passes for another 232 yards as a Rebel freshman. He added 63 rushing yards and 326 receiving yards (on 27 catches) as a sophomore in 2007. He emerged a bit as a junior in 2008, however, rushing for 655 yards (on 109 carries) and gaining 625 receiving yards (on 44 catches).

Already having a good senior season in 2009, McCluster exploded in Game 10 vs. Tennessee last weekend. He rushed for a school-record 282 yards and added another 42 receiving yards, finishing with 324 all-purpose yards in spearheading a 42-17 defeat of the Vols.

Wilson was right. The guy really is special.

"He's not big in stature but he's strong for his size and he's explosive. I knew before he started that he was going to be a good player," Wilson said, flashing a pained grin as he added: "But I never imagined he'd have as much success on us as he did."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories