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Tuesday Question - 11/17/2009

Generally, we are the "authors" of "content" around here - "here" being a blog and not a message board. Recognize, we do, that you've come here not to contribute, but to consume. Nevertheless, there is the sporadic occasion where, either for our benefit or for to exercise the thinkifiers of the masses, we ask you a question. Today's question is ...

Is Dexter McCluster the greatest Rebel to ever wear #22?

With three games left in his career in red and blue, it is time to start talking about the legend, the legacy of da lil' bastid.  Forewarning, this question is uninformed to some degree because my memory only reaches so far into the deep.  If J.Q. "Bonecrusher" McGillicutty really dominated for the Rebs back in '32 while wearing the double deuces, please give my regards to his great grandchildren, but, honestly, I am cognizant - even after cursory research - of only McCluster, Dou Innocent, and the almighty Deuce.

Entertain the idea of Innocent, if for no other reason than his awesome name.  Holy Moley Cheese Cannoli, he racked up 242 rushing yards against the Maroon in 1995.  His 2322 career yards places him fourth all-time.  And his ten career 100-yard games trails only Joe Gunn (12) and McAllister.

The exploits of Deuce McAllister need not -but will be - explored here.  His 37 rushing touchdowns are the most in Ole Miss history.  His 3060 career rushing yards are the most in Ole Miss history.  His contemporaries were Joe Gunn and John Avery.  He and Gunn shared 1,246 snaps between 1997 and 2001.  Dexter McCluster is not going to eclipse Deuce McAllister as a function of career statistics.

But what of results? With the help of Deuce McAllister Ole Miss went to four straight bowls ('97 Motor City, '98 Independence, '99 Independence, and '00 Music City).  McAllister put everything he had - 40 rushes - into a 1998 Egg Bowl that, unfortunately, sent Tommy Tuberville out a 6-28 loser.  Deuce was a two-time member of the All-SEC first team.

But, here is Dexter.  The offensive MVP of the 2009 Cotton Bowl.  Riddled with injuries as a freshman and sophomore, yet had 126 all-purpose yards the first time we saw him against Memphis in 2006.  In 2009, Dexter is average 7.1 yards per rush.  Twice this season he is the run-away SEC Offensive Player of the Week.  Against Tennessee, he is named National Player of the Week.  In an Auburn loss, Dexter rushed 22 times and caught 4 passes for 260 all-purpose yards.  The consensus among Auburn fans was that we had not given it to McCluster enough.  In losses to Alabama and South Carolina, McCluster had a combined 24 touches - most of those coming in a desperate fourth quarter against the Gamecocks.  The inference is clear - in 2009 Dexter is the difference between winning and losing.  

The wins against Tennessee and Arkansas in 2009 are highly memorable for Ole Miss fans.  Dexter simply comes up big in big games like few Rebels before him.  When the coaches were not giving him the ball, he kept working.  And while all we Ole Miss fans have been screaming "I told you so" at our coaching staff, McCluster has been humble, grateful, and dominant.

At, allegedly, 5'9" 170, Dexter might not fill out a jersey quite like Deuce did, but he has played up to - and in my opinion, beyond - those legendary numbers.  Dexter McCluster is the greatest player to wear #22.