Hurricane Elite: DT

Has there been a program that has sent as many quality defensive linemen to the next level like Miami the past two decades? From burly tackles inside who could collapse the pocket and disrupt the running game, to ends who could come off the edge and harass the quarterback, nobody brought the heat up front like the Hurricanes.


10 - Bob Nelson (80-81): Throughout the 70's while the Miami program struggled to win consistently, they did have a steady stream of quality defensive linemen like Don Latimer, Rubin Carter, Eddie Edwards, Don Smith and Jim Burt. As a new decade dawned, guys like Nelson continued the tradition.

Nelson was a steady inside presence on the pre-dynasty Canes that set the foundation for future national championships. Nelson was a hard-nosed player known for his effort. He is tied for sixth all-time in career sacks at UM with 22.

9 - Derwin Jones (84-87): In many ways Jones was the perfect sidekick to Jerome Brown. While Brown was boisterous and loud, Jones was quiet and reserved. Brown was spectacular, Jones was steady and consistent.

For three years, Jones provided reliable play inside in Jimmy Johnson's one-gap 4-3. Jones, who was good for four or five sacks a year, was a guy who rarely made mistakes and could be counted on to carry out his assignments. His 98 career assists ranks first among all Miami tackles.

8 - Jimmie Jones (86-89): It's a bit surprising that a guy who didn't even start his senior year is on a list of this nature. But it's a testament to just how loaded that defensive line of 1989 really was.

Jones, who came out of Okeechobee, Florida, didn't even play high school football his senior year, instead working to support his family. At many other programs Jones would have been the dominant lineman, but at Miami, he was just another cog. In his senior year, the trio of Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland and Jones was the foundation of one of Miami's most dominant units.

Making the move from defensive end to tackle, Jones had a quick first step and good explosion off the snap of the ball. Jones would make the clinching sack of Oklahoma's Charles Thompson in the 1988 Orange Bowl, leading to one of two national title rings won by Jones.

7 - William Joseph (99-02): Although Joseph was miscast as an end in 1999, he was still good enough to earn Sporting News Freshman All-American honors. But as he moved inside beginning in 2000, he began to flourish, providing Damione Lewis with some much- needed support.

Joseph was a strong, well-built player who broke out in 2001 with 10 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, earning 3rd team All-American. Although he fell off a bit his senior year, he was still good enough to be a first-round draft choice of the New York Giants.

By the time he left UM, Joseph had started 50 games, garnering 200 career tackles, 75 quarterback hurries, 19.5 sacks, 47 tackles for loss and seven fumbles caused.

6 - Damione Lewis (97-00): It seemed that for most of his career that Lewis didn't get much help inside, he was a Starsky without a Hutch or Laurel with no Hardy. But Lewis was still a four year starter who still provided good inside pressure.

Lewis had a quick first step and a good motor. What was really impressive was his ability to play hurt. Hampered by a foot injury for the better part of his senior year in 2000, he was still able to provide a good push up front for the 2000 Hurricanes. He finished off his career with a flourish by harassing Florida's Rex Grossman all night in the 2001 Sugar Bowl, a game that the Canes would prevail in, 37-20.

Lewis would finish his career at Coral Gables with 15.5 career sacks, 65 quarterback hurries, 222 tackles and 31 tackles for loss.

5 - Lester Williams (78-81): Williams, a Lou Saban recruit, signaled the birth of 'the State of Miami' espoused by Howard Schnellenberger. And Williams did not disappoint, racking up 210 career stops, which is tops among defensive tackles at Miami.

In his final year in Coral Gables, Williams would earn All-American honors from the Walter Camp Foundation, Playboy Magazine, Kodak and Parade, registering 76 tackles and five sacks.

4 - Cortez Kennedy (88-89): OK, most guys that have only one productive year shouldn't be this high, but Kennedy put on one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the program's history. He went from a fat and out-of-shape rotation player, to the third pick in the 1990 NFL Draft.

Coming out of NW Mississippi JC, Kennedy was a load, but the problem was he was too big for his own good. With a rigorous off-season training regimen prior to the '89 season, he turned into a monster.

Kennedy, while built like a sumo wrester, had the feet and dexterity of a ballerina. He could disrupt blocking on the inside as well as any tackle that has come through this program. Just ask Notre Dame, which came in with the nations best running attack and a 22-game winning streak on Thanksgiving weekend of 1989. Led by Kennedy's efforts to thwart Tony Rice and his cohorts, Miami would hold the Irish to 142 yards on the ground and 248 total yards. That effort spearheaded the Canes to a convincing 27-10 win that catapulted the Canes back into the national title hunt - which they would eventually win.

His senior campaign consisted of 6.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback pressures.

If you close your eyes you can still see Kennedy stuffing Tony Rice and him doing his trademark celebration, 'The Tez.'

3 - Russell Maryland (87-90): While other guys may have been bigger, others quicker, some stronger and some blessed with better technique, nobody could match the reliability, consistency and durability of Maryland - on and off the field.

There was a reason he was given the nickname 'The Conscience.' If there ever was a Jiminy Cricket of the 1980's Canes, it was Maryland. He was known for being the type of teammate who would make sure curfew was met and that study hall was attended. And it was Maryland who put Kennedy on the strenuous off-season program of 1989 that eventually made him a millionaire.

But Maryland, for as good a person as he was, isn't on here just for citizenship; the guy could play ball. What made him a special player was his footwork – for which he was named 'the Dancing Bear' - and his motor, as he was known for his second and third efforts to hunt down ball carriers.

He would become Miami's first Outland Trophy Award winner in his senior year in 1990. He would also finish out his time at Miami by being named a consensus All-American and being named the UPI Lineman of the Year. For his career, he would total 279 tackles, 25 tackles for losses and 20.5 sacks.

For his yeoman's work, he was the first pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, chosen by his former coach Jimmy Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys.

2 - Warren Sapp (92-94): Who knew that Miami would be getting one of the most dominant defensive lineman in college football history when they signed this tight end out of Apopka?

Sapp was a supreme athlete who could beat guards and centers off the ball and then go through them with bull-like strength. In his first two seasons, he showed flashes of his potential, coming up with key plays like his late sack against the Cuse in the waning moments of Miami's 16-10 win at the Dome in 1992.

By 1994, he was ready to run things on a unit he called 'Death Row'. It was in that season that Sapp put on one of the most prolific individual seasons in UM history, coming up with 10.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 4 fumbles caused and 25 quarterback pressures. But those numbers don't tell the whole story of just how disruptive he really was. In games against FSU and Boston College, Sapp would make momentum-changing plays that led to Miami victories.

And Sapp was downright heroic in single-handedly thwarting Nebraska's vaunted running game for three-and-a-half quarters before running out of gas in the 1995 Orange Bowl Classic.

For his efforts he would become Miami's first Lombardi Award winner and was named the Defensive Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated, ABC Sports and the Football Writers Association of America, in addition to being a consensus All-American.

But what you really need to know about that season is this: he was also a Heisman Trophy finalist who was invited to the final ceremonies in New York.

Now, how many defensive tackles make that trip?

1 - Jerome Brown (83-86): Brown was a larger-than-life figure on and off the field. Who can forget the Fiesta Bowl steak fry or the coin toss before the Oklahoma game in '86 at the Orange Bowl? In many ways, Brown embodied the 80's Canes with his loud and exuberant ways. Many will tell you, he was the heart and soul of the program - even after his departure.

But it was his dominant play that set Brown apart. He was a mixture of size, quickness and brute strength. When he was on top of his game, he could disrupt blocking schemes on a regular basis and he was always worthy of a double-team.

For his career - in which he played in three of the four major bowl games (Orange, Fiesta twice, and Sugar) - he would tally 183 tackles, 21 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

If there was one quintessential Jerome Brown game, it had to be that one afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma in 1985, where Brown led an aggressive Cane defense with 16 tackles, a sack, a blocked field goal and a broken leg of Troy Aikman, that forever altered his career. His strong play inside led the Canes to a 27-14 win over the top-ranked Sooners. For his efforts he was named Defensive Player of the Week by the Associated Press, UPI and Sports Illustrated.

After being named second team All-American in 1985, he was a consensus choice in his senior year and was an Outland and Lombardi finalist in 1986.


Dan Sileo, Kenny Lopez, Matt Walters, Willie Broughton, Pat Riley, Eric Miller, Vince Wilfork

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