Senior wide receiver Dexter McCluster
First in a series of post-spring position reviews.
I thought this was a deep and talented group last year, and the reality is it only lost one member. But that member, Mike Wallace, got behind an opposing secondary with regularity. Losing him leaves a void but one that may be replaced by Markeith Summers.
Head coach Houston Nutt likes Summers as a guy who can get open downfield.
Depth of the wide receivers was evident last season because the staff wasn’t afraid to put guys like Summers and Lionel Breaux, sophomores then, in the game at crucial times. Summers responded with a big catch at Alabama and a 13-yard touchdown run on a reverse at LSU. Breaux had big catches against Auburn and LSU.
Together they combined for 17 catches, and both players are being called on to increase their productivity this season. They’ve both shown flashes of ability, and I expect will transition well to larger roles.
Noxubee County All-American Pat Patterson is expected to qualify academically and be part of the team in August. Patterson doesn’t have Wallace speed, but he has great hands, and he’s a very physical player who believes the ball belongs to him when it’s in the air. Patterson will make an impact in some way.
The wild card that could really strengthen this group is sophomore Andrew Harris. At almost 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he’s another big, physical player. He showed good hands in the spring but also had more drops than coaches were comfortable with.
Starters Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster continue to set the tone for this group with their consistency, their route-running and their ability to make catches in a crowd. That’s even true for McCluster, who stands 5-10 but plays much bigger with his ability to get up for the ball.
With a little less experience at receiver, look for McCluster to spend more time at receiver than tailback, at least early in the season.
A redshirt freshman to keep an eye on is Melvin Harris. He's 6-6, 185 and coaches are eager to see what he can do. He wasn't able to show them in the spring when he sat out drills recovering from the same type of foot surgery that held defensive end Greg Hardy out of action. Harris could be the situational target, the big presence, that Hardy was in 2007. He could be more than that if he's a quick study in the offense.
There's a lot of athleticism at tight end with senior Gerald Harris, redshirt freshman Ferbia Allen and signee Zaccheus Mason on the way. I think there will be more throws to the tight end position.