49ers Blog and Q&A

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February 27, 2010
Willis dubbed McCluster "Baby Hester"

One of the more intriguing draft prospects was just on the podium. At 5-8, 172 pounds, Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster is one of the smallest players in Indianapolis. A month ago at the Senior Bowl, teams wanted to see how he would perform as a wide receiver, and he excelled in that role. McCluster seemed surprised, however, that most of the teams he's spoken to are looking at him as a running back. He ticked off half a dozen teams that have interviewed him, including the Seahawks and Rams, but said he hasn't met with the 49ers yet. He said he has more interviews tonight.

McCluster is a broadcast journalism major and his friendly and vivacious personality was apparent today. He also has the toughness -- or at least the willingness to be tough -- that NFL teams want to see. He said he preferred returning punts over kickoffs. And he spent his sophomore season as the gunner on coverage units, not a job for the faint of heart. A big concern for any rookie running back is how well he pass blocks. McCluster conceded that when he first arrived at Ole Miss, his presence on the field was a tip off the Rebels were going to run. As a senior, however, he said he dedicated himself to learning how to block. "They say when they watch film the toughness and the willingness is there," McCluster said of the feedback he's been getting on his pass protection.

McCluster was a freshman at Ole Miss when Patrick Willis was still there. Willis gave him the nickname "Baby Hester" after McCluster put a move on Willis in seven-on-seven drills and "made him look a little silly. He took it easy on me in practice. I was the young one then. He never really brought the wood to me, so he kind of protected me in a sense." Does he think he can make Willis look silly in the NFL? "I've got a little bit more experience under my belt, so, yeah," he said.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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