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Friday, September 5, 2008
Keep your eyes on Ole Miss' McCluster


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Well, Week 2 in the SEC got off to a rousing start with Vanderbilt upsetting South Carolina on Thursday night and pocketing its first win over a nationally ranked team at home since 1992. Bobby Johnson continues to do an amazing job at one of the toughest places to coach college football in the country, and he's getting better players into the program now. South Carolina, on the other hand, looks lost offensively, and the Head Ball Coach looks like he's seen a ghost. The Gamecocks don't protect very well, are just OK at running back and may be without star receiver Kenny McKinley for a while after he hurt his hamstring against the Commodores. Here's a look at what to watch for this Saturday as Week 2 continues around the league:

1. McCluster the Duster: The SEC has its share of fun players to watch play, but Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster might be in a category by himself. He's one of the trigger men in the Wild Rebel direct snap formation that was so successful for Ole Miss in the opener, but he'll also line up at receiver, in the slot, maybe even in the backfield. He jokes that he's now a robust 170 pounds after coming to Ole Miss at 153 pounds "soaking wet." He doesn't need much space to make something happen and is fearless for such a little guy.

2. How healthy is Percy?: It sounds like Percy Harvin is definitely going to play against Miami after sitting out the opener. How much he'll play and how effective he'll play are the key questions. Clearly, he's not 100 percent while still recovering from surgery on his heel this offseason that sounds far more delicate than the Gators made it sound at the time he was having the procedure. Even so, Harvin at 75 or 80 percent is still one of the most dangerous playmakers in the college game.

3. Todd's passing fancy: When you get right down to it, who knows how this Auburn quarterback thing will go? Chris Todd, the junior college transfer who's played in Tony Franklin's system since he was a 10th-grader, steps in as the starter this weekend against Southern Miss. If he throws the ball well, manages the offense and the Tigers show some semblance of a passing game, then it may be his job to lose. This we know: Tommy Tuberville doesn't want to be rotating back and forth between quarterbacks when LSU comes to town on Sept. 20.

4. Best wishes to the LSU community: Here's hoping for nothing but tranquil days ahead, especially after what the people of Louisiana have been through with hurricanes the last few years. There won't be a game at Tiger Stadium this weekend, as the Troy game was postponed until Nov. 15, but the rest of the conference will be with you in spirit.

5. Pegues needs to please: Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom reminded everybody this week that his Bulldogs know a little something about dealing with adversity, especially some of the older players such as Derek Pegues who were around during the lean rebuilding years. More than ever, the Bulldogs need Pegues. They need him to be a difference-maker on defense and special teams, and they need him to be a leader. This is his chance to pay his team back after being suspended for missing too many classes and sitting out last weekend's 22-14 loss to Louisiana Tech.

6. Freshmen overtaking the Ozarks: Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said the Razorbacks played 13 freshmen last week against Western Illinois. It's going to be that way the rest of the season, and many of those freshmen will play major roles. He especially likes some of the freshman receivers, and guys like Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams will have to be main targets in the passing game this season. Childs and Adams each had touchdown catches in the opener.

7. Sweet Home Alabama: Alabama returns home after whipping then No. 9-ranked Clemson 34-10 at the Georgia Dome last weekend, a performance that sent the Crimson Tide Nation into a frenzy. A lot of the questions this week have centered around whether or not Alabama is ahead of schedule under Nick Saban. Let's see how they handle success before completely answering that question. But the good news for Tide fans: This is a physical, stout football team on both lines of scrimmage. Think junior college newcomer Terrence Cody makes a difference in the middle on defense? He's a 365-pound man.

8. Mike Hartline's maturation: Let's face it, the Kentucky offense isn't nearly as explosive as we've become accustomed to the last few years. Much of that is Hartline settling into the position and gaining the trust of his coaches, not to mention the guys around him. He'll get better, but the Kentucky defense is good enough that the Wildcats don't need Hartline taking a lot of chances on offense. It's a nice setup for Hartline. He gets to grow as a quarterback and doesn't have the burden of carrying the team. That responsibility will belong to the defense.

9. Florida's muscle up front: With Hawaii throwing the ball all over the park, it was difficult to tell last week whether or not Florida's going to be able to hold up this season against the run, especially at the tackle positions. Miami should present a stiffer test with its duo of Javarris James and Graig Cooper. The jury's still out on the interior of Florida's defensive line. Lawrence Marsh is a player. But after that, there are more unknowns than there is known. One of the keys for the Gators is true freshman Omar Hunter coming on and being a factor after struggling with back problems for much of the preseason.

10. Boling back in the lineup: The Bulldogs will go with their second different look in the offensive line in as many weeks Saturday now that Clint Boling has served his one-game suspension. Boling will slide in at right tackle after Josh Davis started there last weekend. Davis will move over to the left side and back up Kiante Tripp at left tackle. The Bulldogs aren't starting three freshmen like they did a year ago, but this is still a relatively young line. True freshman Cordy Glenn will make his second straight start at right guard. Starting center Chris Davis, Josh Davis, Boling and Tripp are all sophomores. The old man of the group is junior Vince Vance at left guard.