Hurricane Elite: QB

Counting down to Monday Night Football against Florida State in the Orange Bowl we will be providing a list of top Hurricanes at their respective positions. To get things started what better way than to see how the all-time 'Cane QBs stacked up. With a few gunslingers to choose from let's see who tops the list in this heated race!

It seems that every April ESPN runs an eight hour infomercial on the University of Miami football program. It's called the NFL Draft. And it seems you can't go more than a few players at a time before a Hurricane is being called up, who shakes hands with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and then puts on a cap of his new team.

While other programs define themselves by specific positions- for instance, Penn St. has long been known as Linebacker U- Miami is now simply called 'NFL U'.

In short, no other program has consistently put out as many quality players to the next level at all the positions like UM. And the results on the field have been spectacular. Since 1980 no team has won as many national championships and have played for as many titles as the Hurricanes.

There are a lot of things that go into a winning program, but ultimately, you need the material. It's the players that are the engine that makes this vehicle go. And it's safe to say that no program has had many marquee players as Miami during that stretch.

Two years ago I did a top 100 of the best 'Canes post-1980. I chose that cut off point since that was when the dynasty was just being built and even though you can never deny the greatness of players like Ted Hendricks, Ottis Anderson, Jim Otto and Chuck Foreman, among many others, how many of us had really seen them on a game to game basis? They will always have their place in the pantheon of Hurricane greats but it's really been the past two decades-plus, where Miami has taken its place as one of the premiere programs in college football.

I have been asked more than once to do another top 100, but to realistic, it would be too soon right now. Those types of things need to be done every decade or so. But as you see guys like Sean Taylor, Andre Johnson, Kellen Winslow Jr. and Willis McGahee depart since that point, you do start to contemplate their place in Hurricane history. Surely, they have to be among our elite.

So we've made a compromise, starting right now, leading into the Labor Day night opener against Florida State, I've decided to do a top ten listing of every position at Miami. The criteria is basically the same one I used a few years ago- a player must have played at least half his career in the 1980's and beyond and players will be judged strictly on their impact while calling the Orange Bowl their football home. And remember, this is just one fan's opinion and nothing more.

Now, I started with the quarterback position because it was in the beginning of this great run where Miami's quarterback tradition was really highlighted. But it will only be a top seven. Unfortunately, after the departure of offensive coordinator/quarterback coach, Gary Stevens, Miami's run off quarterbacks since 1992 (with the graduation of Gino Torretta) has waned badly, save Ken Dorsey.

7- Vinny Testaverde (82,84-86): This low ranking might surprise some folks, but at the end of the day, Testaverde had two chances in the '86 Sugar Bowl and '87 Fiesta Bowl to bring Miami another national championship and failed badly with a combined eight picks in those two contests.

But he did shine in the regular season. His 48 career touchdowns is tied for second all-time in Miami history. And he was a Sooner killer, leading the Hurricanes to back-to-back wins in '85 and '86 over Oklahoma teams that were highly rated coming in. In Norman, he would throw to darts to Michael Irvin and Brian Blades for touchdowns, in addition to his own touchdown run to lead Miami to a 27-14 win. Then the next year in front of a frenzied crowd at the Orange Bowl, he would throw for 261 yards and four TD's to lead the Canes to a 28-16 win over the top-ranked Sooners.

It was in that game where he shook off a would-be sacker and then seemingly zig-zagged his way up the field, avoiding a host of Sooner defenders. That one scramble basically wrapped up his Heisman Trophy. At the end of 1986 he would also be the recipient of the O'Brien and Walter Camp awards.

With his prototypical size and skills he would eventually become the top pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, being selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

6- Craig Erickson (87-90): For some reason Erickson is overlooked when you think of the great signal callers that have played for 'the U'. But you can't deny his impact. His 46 touchdown throws ranks fifth all-time, he's third in all-time total offense with 6,021 yards, fourth in passing yards with 6,056 and fifth in all-time completions with 1,420.

But perhaps his biggest impact came in scaring away Jeff George in the summer of 1987. It is said that it was his presence that kept George from transferring to Miami from Purdue after his freshman year. Erickson's basic attitude was that he didn't care if George- who was among the most highly touted prep quarterbacks in history- transferred to UM or not. He believed that if you come to a program like Miami's, you should expect to compete against great talent. That's a Hurricane.

Eventually, George would land at Illinois and after serving as Steve Walsh's backup for two years; Erickson would lead Miami to its third title in 1989, while battling a thumb injury that sidelined him for a few games.

The only loss of that campaign was a 24-10 loss to FSU, which came with Erickson on the sideline, nursing that ailment. He would play a huge role in Miami's key win over top ranked Notre Dame that season on Thanksgiving weekend by tossing two touchdowns to Dale Dawkins in a 27-10 Miami conquest.

It was behind his leadership that the Canes embarked on what is simply known, as 'the Drive'. Which took 22 plays, covering 80 yards and seemingly hours. Erickson would make the most notable throw of his career by completing a 44 yard rope to Randall Hill on 3rd and 43.

Then in the Sugar Bowl he would complete 17 of 27 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns to lead Miami to a 33-25 win over Alabama and a national title. In his senior year he would lead Miami to a number three finish with an MVP performance in the '91 Cotton Bowl, a 46-3 thrashing of Texas. In his final game as a Hurricane, Erickson would throw for 272 yards and four touchdowns. He would also win the Unitas Award that year for being the outstanding senior quarterback in the land.

Erickson was blessed with a strong arm and the ability to scramble. He also made the adjustment of playing in Gary Stevens' pro-style attack to Dennis Erickson's spread offense.

5- Gino Torretta (89-92): No, he wasn't the most graceful or physically gifted QB we've ever had in the orange and green, but he may have been the toughest. If he was a boxer he would have been George Chuvalo because no matter times how many times you hit him, you couldn't knock him out.

Torretta's name is all over the Miami record book. He ranks in the top ten in just about every single passing statistic of note. But with him it wasn't about the numbers, it was the intangibles. His leadership, his toughness, his grit, his ability to come through with the big plays when the chips were down and the respect he engendered from his teammates.

Those were just some of the reasons he was able to beat out the much more acclaimed Bryan Fortay in a highly publicized quarterback battle in 1991. Which led to Fortay's eventual transfer to Rutgers. Torretta, would lead Miami to another national championship in '91 and a number two finish in '92.

Yeah, Gino won a host of awards like the Heisman Trophy, the Unitas Award, the Walter Camp, the O'Brien and the Football News Player of the Year in 1992, but it was his 24-2 record and a national championship as a starter that really tells the story of this young man from Pinole, California.

4- Ken Dorsey (99-02): How different would history be if Kenny Kelly never injures his shoulder against Virginia Tech in 1999? A saucer-eyed Dorsey would take over the reigns in Blacksburg that night in a 43-10 loss to the Hokies.

It was right then and there that this current run of dominance began. He would lead Miami to blowout wins over Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple to finish out the year. Then after losing the second game of the year in 2000 in Seattle against the Washington Huskies, Dorsey wouldn't lose another game until the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

38-2 was his record as a starter. It's really the only stat you need to know about him. The guy was a winner in every sense of the word. Yeah, he's the all-time leader in passing yards (9,565), total offense (9,486), touchdown passes (86) and completions (668). But those numbers don't do him justice, they only tell part of his importance to the program. His detractors point out that he had lots of help, but what great quarterback doesn't? And don't you think he was missed just a little bit in 2003?

And who can forget the game where he came of age. Just a few weeks after his shaky performance against Washington, the Hurricanes having squandered a 17-0 halftime lead, would be down to the Noles 24-20 with just 1:37 left in the game. Dorsey, would lead his team 73 yards down the field on 6-of-7 passing, capped off by a 13-yard touchdown toss to Jeremy Shockey that ended up being the deciding points in Miami's heart-stopping 27-24 victory.

That, says it all.

3- Steve Walsh (86-88): Think about this for one moment, if not for a botched call in South Bend against Notre Dame in '88, this guy is 24-0 as a starter with two national titles under his belt.

Seriously, was there ever a better come-from-behind QB in Miami history? At Doak Campbell in '87, Miami would find themselves behind 19-3 late in the third quarter. It seemed at that point that this rag-armed right hander from Minnesota would not be able to fill the big shoes of Vinny Testaverde. But with Craig Erickson warming up in the bullpen, Walsh would throw scoring strikes to Melvin Bratton and twice to Michael Irvin- in addition to two successful two-point conversions, to lead Miami to a thrilling 26-25 win over the Noles. It was the biggest win of that season and the momentum carried UM to another championship.

But amazingly, Walsh would out-do himself the next year. At the 'Big House' in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Miami- plagued by its own mistakes- would find itself down 30-14 to the Wolverines with less than half the fourth quarter remaining. With Keith Jackson, ABC's legendary voice declaring the game over, it seemed Miami was done.

But instead Walsh would lead Miami charging back. Hitting Dale Dawkins, Rob Chudzinski and Cleveland Gary on key throws, he would miraculously lead the Hurricanes to an improbable- if not impossible- 31-30 win.

Jerry West will always be known as 'Mr. Clutch' to basketball fans, but to the Hurricane faithful, it would be this guy.

2- Jim Kelly (79-82): True, Jim Kelly never won a national championship under center in Coral Gables but special consideration must be given here. It was this guy that started the great run of quarterbacks in Miami that lasted over a decade and it was with him that Miami started winning big games.

Good thing for Miami that Joe Paterno and Penn St. wanted Kelly, who was from Pennsylvania, to play linebacker for the Nittany Lions. And it was only appropriate that as a freshman in Happy Valley that Kelly would throw of 280 yards and three touchdowns in a shocking 26-10 win over PSU. Then after leading Miami to a 9-3 mark in '1980- which included a 20-10 win over Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl- he would lead the 'Canes to another win over the Nittany Lions in 1981. A 17-14 win over a PSU squad that just happened to be the number one team in the nation at the time.

His career numbers don't really stand out that much but his impact was huge. He was a prototype gunslinger who had the confidence and swagger that became trademarks within the program. When you talk about the beginning of this dynasty, Kelly, is one of its foundations. And along with starting the rich history of Miami quarterbacks, it's Kelly who also started the pilgrimage of UM alumni that comes back to games and is so prevalent and visible on the sidelines year after year.

1- Bernie Kosar (83-84): So why is Bernie number one? Really it's quite simple: he led Miami to its first national championship and by the time he left UM, he held 23 career marks at Miami- in only two seasons. If he hadn't left for the 1985 supplemental draft, I think it's safe to assume that Kosar would still hold every single major passing mark at Miami in addition to winning another ring or two.

After a shaky start in Gainesville- where UM would implode in a 28-3 loss to the hated Florida Gators- Kosar would lead Miami to ten straight wins in the regular season. Then after a string of upsets on New Years Day in 1984, Miami found themselves in a position to play for the all the marbles against the vaunted Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 50th Orange Bowl Classic. And in front of a packed Orange Bowl and national audience watching on NBC, Kosar would throw for 300 yards and two scores to lead Miami to a 31-30 upset.

There was no sophomore slump for Kosar in 1984. He would throw for 3,642 yards and 25 touchdowns but a porous defense would bring the Canes down in an 8-5 campaign. But who can forget Kosar lofting a fade to Eddie Brown in the late seconds against the Gators in Tampa Stadium to lead Miami to a thrilling, comeback victory over Florida? It's really too bad that great performances later in the season against Boston College, Maryland and UCLA were overshadowed by defensive collapses.

1984, featured one of the most prolific Miami offenses ever, unfortunately, it also featured one of its worst defenses. But Kosar was spectacular, throwing to weapons like Brown, Willie Smith, Stanley Shakespeare and Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton out of the backfield, he always seemed two steps ahead of the game.

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