September 4, 2008

McCluster ready to show more of Wild Rebel

Ole Miss broke out the "Wild Rebel" formation 12 times in the Rebels' 41-24 win over Memphis this past Saturday.

After being used extensively in the spring, the "Wild Rebel" was kept under wraps during fall camp. From all accounts, however, no one has seen anything yet.

"There are lots of formations that can be run," Ole Miss offensive coordinator Kent Austin said, laughing. "We're not tapped out there yet."

Dexter McCluster and Brandon Bolden "quarterbacked" the scheme against Memphis, and both players are expected to continue to see time running the "Wild Rebel" this Saturday when Ole Miss (1-0) travels to No. 20 Wake Forest (1-0).

"I never thought I'd be doing it here, but anything's possible and I'm happy he chose me for the job," said McCluster, a former high school quarterback who rushed six times for 64 yards against Memphis, adding four receptions for 61 yards. "It's been fun so far."

The Demon Deacons, unlike Memphis, will have some film to go on this week as they get ready for Ole Miss. Nutt, who used Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the wildly successful "Wild Hog" offense at Arkansas, knows Ole Miss' work on the formation has to be different and improved if it's going to work in Winston-Salem.

"People are going to work on it and we are used to that," Nutt said. "They are going to start preparing for it. We just try to stay as sharp as we can with it. We try to maybe add a wrinkle to it each week. The bottom line is that it still comes down to blocking, ball handling, and the trigger man - Dexter. It's a run, it's a hand-off, it's a pass, and we've just got to continue mixing things up by adding a wrinkle each week."

Reading between the lines, it appears the "Wild Rebel" is destined to become an even bigger part of the gameplan. Nutt said earlier this week that if Bolden's carries at running back _ the freshman had eight carries for 76 yards against the Tigers _ increase, he might have to add some new players to the "Wild Rebel" scheme.

"I just think we are going to need every one of these guys," Nutt said. "Especially with the lighting motion Brandon does in the 'Wild Rebel.' If his carries increase, we will need another guy to take his spot there whether it is Lionel Breaux or Devin Thomas. All of these guys are going to be used."

Nutt said the formation was used about as much against Memphis as he'd hoped. In other words, the Rebels didn't show too much of it, but did just enough to force Wake Forest to prepare for it and focus on McCluster at all times.

"He is almost like a 12th guy on the field where they really got to find out where he's located and what he's doing-if he's in the quarterback position, in the slot, at tailback," Nutt said. "You are putting a guy with a little more athleticism in certain spots, and they having to defend that helps everything like your run game and passing game. It slows good teams down. It slows them down to make them think and not play as fast. That's your whole idea of moving a guy like Dexter around."

McCluster said the "Wild Rebel" gelled quickly this fall. After just one game, he said, the Rebels believe the formation can't be stopped if it's run per its design.

"It got better pretty fast," McCluster said. "At first, it was me trying to get the timing right with the snap because I haven't played quarterback since high school. Once it started rolling, it got my confidence up and it's been rolling ever since. If we execute, we can get the job done anytime. Only time will tell. I know there are going to be a lot of people keying on it, but if we focus and get done what we need to get done, we should be very good."

McCluster, a 5-foot-8, 165-pounder, is still eagerly awaiting his first pass from the formation. Bolden threw a 37-yard pass to quarterback Jevan Snead, but McCluster's one play-pass call ended in a run when McCluster determined the intended receiver was covered.

"My mom asked me that," McCluster said. "She asked if I could see Shay Hodge. She asked if that's why I ran it. I can see over the line. I could see he was covered, but I can see. It's not very hard.

"I know I'm a little dude and it's tough to see me. That's to my advantage. We have a big (offensive) line, so I can hide back there and by the time they see me, it's too late."

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