Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We’ve seen Ole Miss’ Dexter McCluster in doses this season, but the full dosage may come this weekend.
For that matter, it may have to come.
Taking the ball and driving it against Alabama’s defense for 12 and 14 plays just doesn’t happen very often, which is where McCluster and his ability to get yards in chunks and strike from long distance come into play.
He’s the Rebels’ second leading rusher and the second leading receiver through four games, but he’s also received a ton of attention from defenses and hasn’t been able to get loose in the open field as much as he’d like.
And let’s face it. The open field is McCluster’s sanctuary.
“Driving that ball against these guys can get pretty hard, so we need that big strike in there,” McCluster said. “I want to be that person, if we need something to happen. But I’m not going to try and force it, either. I’m going to let it come to me when it comes.”
The Rebels have moved McCluster around from slot receiver, to outside receiver, even to tailback.
They put him back at tailback in the fourth quarter of the South Carolina game, and the Rebels finally started moving the ball. And while a 169-pound tailback is a rarity in the SEC, McCluster is game for whatever the coaches have in store this weekend.
“If I’m getting doubled at wide receiver, I think you’ll see them throw me back there,” said McCluster, who’s carried it 31 times for 148 yards, but doesn’t have a run longer than 18 yards in the first four games.
“I’m not a one-dimensional player. I can play at wide receiver, running back, pretty much wherever the coaches need me. Just give me a chance to get the ball in my hands.”
So far this season, McCluster said he hasn’t lined up but a handful of times in the “Wild Rebel” formation at quarterback.
“I draw a lot of attention back there,” he said. “I know they don’t want to run me in the ground, but I tell them, ‘Run me until my tongue falls off. I’ll be all right.'"
He’s also lobbying to get a chance in the return game this weekend.
“I go to them every day and tell them I’m ready. I practice it every day,” McCluster said. “I know that time will come. I’ve just got to be ready for it.”
McCluster was coy when asked if the Rebels were planning anything new for the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt completely closed practice this week.
“We let coach Nutt and coach (Kent) Austin talk about those things,” said McCluster, who has 11 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown this season. “But I know we’re going to throw some wrinkles in there and have something ready for that defense that they’re not expecting.”
Don’t be surprised if McCluster is somehow involved.
“Wherever he is, he’s a threat,” Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead said. “Everybody knows it, but you’ve still got to stop him. He’s just one of those electric players that when the ball touches his hands, there’s no telling what he’s going to do.”