Hurricane Elite: CB

The Hurricanes have long been known for producing fearsome lineman and quick, hard hitting linebackers. Yet backing them up throughout the years has been an air-tight, big play secondary providing the last line of defense. Being a cornerback is often compared to being out alone on an island. It is the most vulnerable position on the field, one mis-step can lead to a touchdown.

Luckily, Miami has been blessed with superb cover men who are equally adept at preventing the big play and creating one for themselves.

10 - Roland Smith (87-90) and Rodney Bellinger (80,82-83) Tie: Yeah, I know I'm hedging, but who says I can't take a few creative liberties here? Both Smith and Bellinger were two heady, smart players with quick feet, who were oftentimes overlooked for more acclaimed teammates. But they made big plays when they counted.

You want to see some run support out of a corner? Just watch the '84 Orange Bowl game, where the gutty, little Bellinger was never hesitant to come up and stick his nose into a pile against the vaunted Nebraska running game.

Smith, would led the '89 national champs with six picks and his biggest play of his career came in the Thanksgiving weekend showdown with Notre Dame. His interception of a Tony Rice pass would eventually lead to a Craig Erickson-to-Dale Dawkins hook-up that would give Miami a 10-0 lead, on their way to a 27-10 win over the Irish. His 11 career interceptions ranks seventh all-time at UM.

9 - Tolbert Bain (84-87): Steady and consistent would be the best way to describe this guy. From his redshirt freshman year in 1984 through 1987, he was a mainstay in the Miami secondary as one of the fabled members of the 'Bennie and the Jets' secondary led by Bennie Blades.

Just five days after his first game against Bo Jackson and Auburn, Bain would seal Miami's thrilling 32-20 win over the Florida Gators in Tampa by returning his first career INT 58-yards for a game-sealing touchdown.

Bain, was a big corner, who was listed at 6'2, 195 pounds, who had the knack for making big plays. His two picks at FSU in '85 led the Canes defensive effort, he had a key fumble recovery in the big '86 win over the Gators and picked off a pair of Pitt Panther throws later that season.

8 - Dexter Seigler (90-93): He had one of the best nicknames you'll ever hear, as he dubbed himself 'ABC'- which was an acronym for 'America's Best Corner' and for a stretch in 1992 and '93 he was, compiling five straight INT's, which ties Bennie Blades for the program record.

Seigler was not a burner but a smart player who did an effective job in playing his area in Miami's two-deep coverage.

7 - Ronnie Lippett (80-82): People tend to forget about this guy because he didn't play on any of the national title teams that followed him at Miami but he was part of the core group of players that laid the foundation of the Hurricane dynasty.

Playing alongside Fred Marion, Lippett would form a strong secondary that helped Miami give up just 145 and 153 total points in his last two seasons as a Hurricane.

6 - Mike Rumph (98-01): Rumph was a tall and rangy corner whose most natural position may have been free safety. After playing as a true freshman in '98, Rumph would soon be a fixture in the Hurricane secondary.

Take away the late game-winning pass given up to Chafie Fields in the 1999 game against Penn St. and you'd be hard-pressed to find that many big plays given up by Rumph.

In 2001, alongside Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed and James Lewis, he was part of a secondary that is considered one of the greatest ever in college football history.

5 - Donald Ellis (85-88): People tend to forget just how good of a corner Ellis was at Miami. He tore up his knee badly against Florida St. in 1987 and while he never regained his burst or his top notch recovery speed, he was still a steady performer by the time he came back in 1988.

Ellis, was a smooth and rangy cover guy who could really break on the ball once it was in the air. He had good instincts and a feel for the game. Just watch the '85 win in Norman against the top-ranked Sooners, where he thwarted several Troy Aikman bullets.

4 - Duane Starks (96-97): Starks, a member of Butch Davis' initial recruiting class of 1995, was a high school quarterback, who soon became a QB's worst nemesis.

He was as fast as any corner Miami has had, he was blessed with 4.3 speed and the natural ability to stay on a receiver's hips and play the ball. Starks would lead both the 96 and '97 editions of the Canes with three picks. Even in games where Miami was horribly over-matched- like against FSU in '97- you knew that Starks could have started in any era of Hurricane football with his God-given tools.

3 - Antrel Rolle (01-04): Think about this for a moment: just how many significant plays has Rolle given up in his career at UM? It'll take a while because since he broke into the starting line-up in 2002 as a true sophomore, Rolle has developed into a shutdown corner. Just put him on the opposition's number one threat and leave him out there all day long.

Just ask Larry Fitzgerald, the former Pittsburgh superstar, who was held to a measly three catches for 26 yards with #6 on his tail all night. This performance opened the eyes of the country to Rolle's talents but it's something the Hurricane faithful knew all along. Rolle, at 6'1, 200 pounds and blessed with 4.4 speed, is the prototypical, 21st century corner. And to go along with those physical gifts, he's also a hard-nosed competitor. His 47 tackles last season ranked sixth on the team.

He's been named All-Big East twice and this year he comes in rated as the premiere cornerback in the country and should make a strong run at the Thorpe Award. A strong senior campaign might make this rating too low.

2 - Ryan McNeil (89-92): A tall and lanky corner, McNeil was another Hurricane corner who consistently shut down the opposition's go-to receiver and seldom gave up big plays.

McNeil was a consistent contributor throughout his career at Miami. With injuries mounting late in his redshirt season in 1989, he would come off the bench and play a key role in Miami's third national title season. In 1991, he would lead Miami's fourth championship squad with five interceptions.

McNeil, who was poet in his spare time, was poetry in motion in the defensive backfield for Miami. He was named All-American in his senior year and a Thorpe semi-finalist.

1 - Phillip Buchanon (99-01): So why 'Showtime'? In my opinion, when it's all said and done, out of all the great cover guys Miami has been blessed with, it's this guy who I'd want going man-to-man against a teams number one option in a big game.

He has the footwork of a ballerina, sprinters speed and a pair of hips made for playing corner. And he was an absolute ball hawk, once the ball was thrown, it seemed like he became the intended target. Just ask Chris Rix who was victimized twice by Buchanon in 2001 or anyone else that tried to throw the ball on that legendary secondary.

Buchanon just had a natural feel for the game the great one's have. Call it instincts or intuition, or whatever, but once he got on the field, you just knew how good he was.

HONORABLE MENTION

Robert Bailey, John Turner, Leonard Myers, Kenny Berry, Herbert James and Kelly Jennings

Steve Kim is a regular contributor to Canestime and runs his own website at MaxBoxing.com. For questions or comments, he can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com

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