Ole Miss head football coach Houston Nutt has seen them all. From yesterday’s NFL stars in Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders to today’s talent in Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, Nutt has been around some of football’s finest play-makers during his 28-year collegiate coaching career.
The latest game-changer to churn through one of Nutt’s programs is now a Kansas City Chief. With the 36th overall pick, Kansas City gave Ole Miss’ jack of all trades a new home. Nutt says that
“Put him right up there with them,” Nutt told kcchiefs.com this morning. “The reason that you say that is because he is tough, he is durable and he has the quickest first step. He has a first step like Barry Sanders and he can make people miss like Felix Jones. He has a combination of things and then he has a breakaway homerun speed like Darren McFadden. He’s a special, special guy.”
That’s quite the endorsement from a veteran coach of major college football. Chiefs fans and coaches alike hope that McCluster can add an instant big-play threat to an offense which struggled with speed and making plays in space for a good portion of the 2009 season.
“We love the guy's dynamic play-making ability -- and that's everyone,” Chiefs GM Scott Pioli told CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge. “Coaches. Scouts. Myself. All of us.
“First of all, he was one of our top-rated wide receivers, and one of our top-rated running backs,” Pioli continued. “So, with that, we felt here's a guy who has dynamic playmaking ability, improves our team speed, improves our speed on offense and also gives our coaching staff flexibility to do a number of things. I think coaches will be able to put together a number of different packages where sometimes he'll be a wide receiver, and sometimes he'll be a running back. He's going to be able to do a lot of different things.”
The Chiefs have officially designated McCluster as a wide receiver, but head coach Todd Haley indicated that he isn’t closing the door on McCluster lining up at multiple positions over the course of a football game. McCluster’s offensive versatility is something that the Chiefs haven’t had in quite some time.
“I think when you have a guy, a unique player like that, the number one thing I think you gain or you have a chance to utilize is matchups or have work to your advantage is matchups because he’s a player that you can put in a number of different spots and pressure defenses in a sense,” Haley said.
McCluster has proven his game at one of the highest levels of football, but converting that success to the NFL is always easier said than done. McCluster will get his first taste of professional football in just about 48 hours when the Chiefs rookie camp opens on Friday afternoon.
From draft picks to tryout players, those participating this weekend will have all gone down a different path to reach their shot at NFL opportunity. Now, a new chapter begins. The past is the past and its back to ground zero on Friday as it’s a day of first impressions for the Chiefs 2010 Rookie Class.
“He’ll be the first one out to practice and the last one to leave,” Nutt said. “That’s what you just can’t say enough about Dexter. He’s so much fun to watch and we sure are going to miss him.”
Coach Nutt had plenty more to say about both McCluster and the first of Kansas City’s two fifth round picks,
More on McCluster: Combine Snapshot (posted February 28th on kcchiefs.com)