49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 23, 2010
Willis can't recall McCluster making him look 'silly'

Back in February, Dexter McCluster talked a lot about his former Ole Miss teammate, Patrick Willis. At the scouting combine, he recounted the time in seven-on-seven drills that he put a move on Willis and "made him look a little silly." McCluster was a freshman at the time and Willis was a senior, and McCluster seemed proud in telling a story about how Willis gave him the nickname "Baby Hester" after Bears returner Devin Hester.

The practice-field encounter obviously left a bigger impression on the younger man because Willis today said he had no recollection of it. In fact, he said he didn't remember practicing against McCluster at all. He said he never speaks with McCluster. "He just went to Ole Miss like I did," Willis said.

Though McCluster is only a hazy memory to Willis at Ole Miss, he's coming into sharp focus as a Kansas City Chief. The Chiefs like to spread McCluster - 5-7, 175 pounds -- all over the field, sometimes at running back, sometimes in the slot. It's a lot like how the Saints use Reggie Bush, and the goal is to get McCluster matched up on a linebacker. "He and Reggie - they have a lot of similarities in how they're used and what they're capable of doing," Willis said.

Back in February, McCluster had no team and was trying to sell himself to the NFL. So when asked if he could make Willis look silly on the NFL level, he didn't back down. "I have a little more experience under my belt," McCluster said, "So I hope he's ready."

There's no word yet on whether Takeo Spikes (knee) will practice today. But defensive coordinator Greg Manusky offered some insight into who would step in at inside linebacker in a pinch. Previously, Mike Singletary said Ahmad Brooks would fill in because Brooks has experience playing inside linebacker in college and with the Bengals.

Manusky, however, said that Parys Haralson, followed by Manny Lawson, are the top candidates. He said they've been in the system longer than Brooks and are more familiar with it. Meanwhile, rookie NaVorro Bowman continues to prepare as if he will start the game at Spikes' "ted" linebacker spot.

Who will take his shirt off first? On Tuesday, tight end Vernon Davis and actor Matthew McConaughey will team up for an NFL PLAY 60 event -- the league's pro-fitness initiative -- at the 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto. The two will take students through guided group workouts, nutritional discussions and football and fitness drills. My money's on Vernon ...

-- 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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