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September 6, 2006

McCluster, Cutcliffe earn Rivals.com weekly awards

Position Power Rankings
Early look at Week 2
The College Football Wire

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As catchy nicknames go, "Mr. 268" doesn't exactly have the best of rings to it.

No matter what Dexter McCluster wants to go by, Ole Miss is happy to call him its own.

The true freshman from Largo, Fla., posted 268 all-purpose yards and a touchdown to help the Rebels defeat Memphis 28-25 on Sunday. The performance makes McCluster the Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week for the first week of the 2006 season.

McCluster's showing was part of a great weekend for the Southeastern Conference. Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is our Rivals.com National Coordinator of the Week for engineering the Vols' 35-point output in their surprisingly easy victory over California.

McCluster, 5 feet 9 and 170 pounds, did a little bit of everything against the Tigers. He had six receptions for 86 yards, rushed for 60 yards on just four carries - including a 31-yard TD - and added 122 yards on kickoff returns. His yardage total was fourth on the all-time list at Ole Miss.

"I didn't know I'd have that much of an impact," McCluster said. "I just wanted to go out and not make any mistakes and do my part, and things just worked out for the best."

Did they ever.

"We used him every which way we could," Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron told the media after the game. "He's quick, has good hands and is tough. He played tailback in high school, so he can do a lot of things. We like him a lot."

McCluster is making the transition to receiver in Oxford.

"I can catch the ball and I can run after the catch," McCluster said. "The transition is working out well right now, and anywhere I can make something happen I'm willing to do it, no matter what it is."

McCluster was largely overlooked coming out of high school despite another nickname he picked up his senior year, "Mr. 2000." That was after McCluster posted St. Petersburg area records for rushing yards (2,490) and touchdowns (39) in a single season.

A three-star prospect by Rivals.com and ranked the No. 54 prospect in the nation at running back, McCluster had committed early to South Florida. But Ole Miss picked up its efforts as the 2005 season wore on and eventually won over the youth.

"I think as far as me staying home or coming here it was best for me to get away," McCluster said. "I had trust in Coach O when he came to my house and sat down to talk to me and my family. And I knew in my heart as soon as he left that living room this is where I wanted to go.

"Ever since I came here everything they told me is coming true."

Other freshmen considered this week:

Perrish Cox, DB, Oklahoma State. Cox, a true freshman, returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown as the Cowboys ripped Division I-AA Missouri State 52-10. The newcomer from Waco, Texas, added a 21-yard interception return and a 41-yard punt return on his way to Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Freddie Barnes, QB, Bowling Green. The redshirt set a Bowling Green rushing record for quarterbacks with 150 yards on 29 carries, including touchdowns runs of 21 and 2 yards. He also completed 12-of-19 passes for 82 yards as the Falcons fell to Wisconsin 35-14.

P.J. Hill, RB, Wisconsin. The redshirt posted 128 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries as the Badgers beat Bowling Green 35-14 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Rashawn Parker, DE, Iowa State: The true freshman came up with two sacks for minus-20 yards among his five tackles in the Cyclones' three-overtime victory over Toledo.

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas. The redshirt allayed some fears when he accounted for four touchdowns in the Longhorns 56-7 throttling of North Texas. He had three TD passes while completing 12 of 19 for 178 yards, and he added four carries for 38 yards and another TD.

Oderick Turner, WR, Pitt. The redshirt helped the Panthers to a 38-13 rout of Virginia with two receptions for 92 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown.

Mike Kafka, QB, Northwestern: The redshirt rushed for 89 yards and completed 13-of-17 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats beat Miami (Ohio) 21-3.

Nate Davis, QB, Ball State: The true freshman had a very efficient debut for the Cardinals, entering in the second quarter of his team's 38-20 victory over MAC rival Eastern Michigan. He proceeded to complete 7-of-8 passes for 108 yards and three touchdowns.

Kerry Meier, QB, Kansas: The redshirt accounted for four touchdowns in the Jayhawks laugher over Division I-AA Northwestern State, 49-18. He rushed for 59 yards and a pair of scores and passed for 118 yards and another pair of scores.

Coordinator of the Week
Cutcliffe gets the nod for the remarkable performance of the Tennessee offense and the seeming transformation of quarterback Erik Ainge and the Vols receiving corps.

Ainge completed 11-of-19 passes for a career-high 291 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Cutcliffe repeatedly passed away from Cal All-American cornerback Daymeion Hughes and picked on redshirt freshman Syd'Quan Thompson, who was replacing injured senior Tim Mixon at the other corner.

The results were just what head coach Phillip Fulmer had desired when he brought Cutcliffe back to Knoxville after a dismal 5-6 season a year ago. Cutcliffe was in his 17th year at UT and sixth as offensive coordinator when he left at the end of 1998 to take the head coaching position at Ole Miss.

"I think David Cutcliffe has energized our offensive football team, and I'm proud of that," Fulmer said. "Certainly I feel like I made the right decision in bringing David back here."

The Vols had four scoring plays of 40-plus yards. Receiver Robert Meachem had a career day with five catches for 182 yards and touchdowns of 42 and 80 yards.

The only other serious contender for coordinator of the week was Cutcliffe's counterpart John Chavis, the UT defensive coordinator.

The Vols defense held Cal to three points through three quarters, after which UT led 35-3. The Golden Bears were limited to 64 rushing yards and completed only 20-of-42 passes. The Vols had two interceptions and three sacks.

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