The challenge of replacing McCluster

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt winces when he thinks about it, but he knows it’s reality.

Of all the challenges facing the Rebels in 2010, replacing Dexter McCluster will be the most daunting.

That’s because guys who can change a game as quickly and as consistently as McCluster did in 2009 don’t come around very often.

“He was special, special, special,” Nutt said. “I know I didn’t have one like that this spring. I kept looking for him, but I didn’t have one.”

McCluster was the SEC’s most dynamic offensive player over the second half of last season. He kept the pressure off the Ole Miss offense because he was always breaking long runs for touchdowns or setting up the offense with big plays. The Rebels didn't have to rely on long, grind-it-out drives, which are never easy to come by against SEC defenses.

In his last five SEC games, he averaged 219.6 all-purpose yards and was responsible for eight touchdowns. He also became the first player in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards and have 500 receiving yards in the same season.

Replacing him will be more by committee next season, Nutt said.

But at the head of the list will be Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis, both of whom improved significantly this spring, according to Nutt. Look for Bolden to play a little lighter than he has in the past. Some of the Ole Miss coaches think he might have tried to bulk up too much at one point.

“You look at Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis, and they got better,” Nutt said. “I’m excited about the guys we have, all those guys … Jesse Grandy, Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis, Rodney Scott, Derrick Herman, Korvic Neat and Devin Thomas.

“We’ve got to see which one of those guys, if not all of them, are going to make up for Dexter.”