Hurricane Elite: WR

It seems that every year Miami trots out a fleet of stealthy wide receivers that could rival anything the Air Force puts out. Throw in a mixture of speed, quickness, elusiveness, courage, hands and a healthy dose of swagger and confidence - and you have all the ingredients of a classic Hurricane wideout.

Miami has been blessed with some great quarterbacks throughout this historic run, but those same quarterbacks have been just as fortunate to have as many standout receivers to throw the ball to. From 'Bomb Squads' to 'Ruthless Posses,' UM has always been in good hands.

Tie-10 - Horace Copeland (90-92): Copeland's nickname was 'Hi-C' not because he was rich in vitamins but because of his athletic exploits that allowed him to be a standout in both football and track. Copeland earned All-American honors in track with his ability to long-jump, high jump and run the 100 meters. Copeland was an athletic high-flyer who made his catches count.

He set the tone for the big-play offense of 1991 with his 99-yard touchdown against Arkansas in the season opener. Then there was his post pattern against Penn St. where he hauled in Gino Torretta's rainbow in stride and housed it 80 yards. It was one of several big plays that lifted the Canes to a 26-20 win over the Nittany Lions. His 19.9 yards per catch led the '91 squad.

But off all the big plays he made, none was bigger in that championship year than his short little hitch in front of Terrell Buckley at Doak Campbell on 4th-and-6, late in the fourth quarter. His grab was good enough for a first down, and three players later Larry Jones would score the game-winning points in Wide Right I.

A two-year starter, Copeland would grab 84 balls for 1,424 yards and seven touchdowns throughout his UM career.

Tie-10 - Brett Perriman (84-87): Perriman was the fastest member of the famed 'Bomb Squad' that caught passes from both Vinny Testaverde and then Steve Walsh.

He was often an overlooked player because of the exploits of his colleagues like Michael Irvin and Brian Blades, but no one can deny his talent; in many other programs he'd have been the primary target.

His best year was in 1986, where he accumulated 34 catches for 647 yards and four scores, helping Vinny Testaverde to a Heisman Trophy. His acrobatic 50-yard catch that year in Gainesville sealed Miami's big 23-15 win over the Gators, and his 24-yard touchdown catch later that year against FSU closed out the scoring in the Canes 41-23 win over the Noles.

9 - Dale Dawkins (87-89): In between the heralded 'Bomb Squad' and 'Ruthless Posse' units, was a group of tough, hard-nosed and dependable receivers that held things down at UM. Those units were led by Andre Brown and Dawkins, who did an admirable job of filling some big shoes in 1988 and 1989. Through two different quarterbacks and completely different offensive systems, Dawkins was a highly productive player.

Where he really broke out was in his senior year, compiling 54 catches for 833 yards and seven touchdowns. But it was that historic game against Notre Dame that is his shining moment. His 55-yard hook-up with Craig Erickson gave Miami a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Then his five-yard touchdown grab in 'The Drive' capped off a 22-play, 80-yard march, which took up nearly 11 minutes to begin the second half. His score gave Miami a 24-10 lead and for all intents and purposes KO'd the Irish and put UM in another position to win a national title.

Dawkins was a gritty player who wasn't afraid to do the dirty work. Who can forget his crushing block on a Michigan defensive back that sprang Cleveland Gary for a late touchdown in their incredible comeback of 1988?

That play, more than any of his touchdowns, tells you what type of player Dawkins was.

8 - Brian Blades (84-87): For the most part, playing alongside the electric Michael Irvin was like being the supporting actor to Tom Cruise. It was easy to be overshadowed, but Blades, who alongside Bennie, formed the most prolific brother duo in UM history, made more than his share of headline-worthy plays.

Blades, who grabbed 15 career touchdowns, had the knack for making the clutch catch in big games. On back-to-back plays at Doak Campbell in 1985, he would score touchdowns against the Seminoles in Miami's 35-27 win. Then there was his key two-point conversion from Steve Walsh in Miami's thrilling 26-25 win over the Noles in 1987. Later that year, locked in a slugfest with South Carolina, it was his late touchdown that provided UM with the winning points in a 20-16 victory over the Gamecocks.

7 - Wesley Carroll (89-90): Carroll burst onto the scene as a Hurricane in Dennis Erickson's debut against Wisconsin in 1989. Carroll would catch 7 passes from Craig Erickson for 113 yards and two scores - in addition to another 122 yards in punt returns. It was crystal clear early on, this guy from Northwest Mississippi JC was a player.

Carroll was the perfect 'tailback' in Erickson's spread offense. Playing the inside slot, he was too big for most defensive backs and much too athletic for linebackers to handle in space.

In just two seasons Carroll is tied for sixth in career catches with 114, seventh in yards with 1,722, caught 11 TD's, had two games with 11 catches each, and another with ten. Carroll was a smooth and precise route-runner with the hands of Ozzie Smith.

His 88-yard hook-up for a touchdown from Gino Torretta against Cincinnati in '89 is the second-longest in Miami history. He finished out his Cane career with an eight-catch, 135-yard, two-touchdown showing against Texas in the 1991 Cotton Bowl, a game where Miami thrashed the Longhorns 46-3.

6 - Lamar Thomas (89-92): Although his career ended ignominiously with the 'Teague Takeaway' in the '93 Sugar Bowl blowout at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide, it can't take away from the overall scope of his career.

Thomas, a Gainesville native who was actually booed at his own high school graduation for selecting Miami over the Gators, had one of the most productive careers in Miami history. He ranks second with 144 catches, his 2,271 yards ranks fourth and his 23 touchdowns ranks second among wide receivers.

Tall and lanky as a fire pole, Thomas was a flashy playmaker who could get downfield and make big plays. He seemed to stretch out like Plastic Man when he caught the fade over Terrell Buckley for a touchdown in the 1990 win over the Noles. Two years later he would out-race Clifton Abraham to haul in a Gino Torretta lob to put Miami ahead of FSU 17-16 in Wide Right II – a game that the Canes would eventually win 19-16.

It was just one of seven catches for 104 yards on that hot, steamy South Florida afternoon. More than once he would have to be helped to the sideline with cramps. But, he was there when the Canes needed him the most.

5 - Reggie Wayne (97-00): Wayne is about as technically sound as any receiver that has come through this program. He seemed immune to mental errors, ran sharp routes, made adjustments on the fly, created separation, and caught the ball with his hands. Starting from his true freshman campaign of 1997 through 2000, all he did was produce over and over again. Although Miami staggered to a 5-6 campaign, his emergence let you know things would be getting better soon.

His 48 catches that year is a UM freshman record and by the time he left Coral Gables he caught a total of 193 passes - tops at Miami. And his 2,510 yards ranks second while his 20 scores ranks third among receivers. Not even late knee surgery in 1998 could stop Wayne's production.

Wayne was the model of consistency and reliability, but if there is one play that stands out in his career, it had to be his 80-yard catch and scamper against Virginia Tech in 1998. It proved that Wayne could also be spectacular in addition to being steady.

4 - Andre Johnson (00-02): If you had to draw up a prototype for the modern receiver, it would look like Johnson. Blessed with the size of a tight end at 6'3", 225 pounds and the speed of a sprinter, Johnson was one of the most dangerous outside threats that UM has ever had.

After learning from the likes of Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne, Johnson would break into the starting lineup in 2001 and become Ken Dorsey's most consistent wide receiver for the next two seasons. In the national championship season of 2001, Johnson would grab 37 passes for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns. And he would cap off his first year as a starter with catching seven passes for 199 yards and two scores in the 2002 Rose Bowl versus Nebraska. For that effort, Johnson was named co-MVP of the Rose Bowl alongside Dorsey.

In 2002, Johnson would explode with 52 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. It's only the second time in Miami history that a receiver has surpassed 1,000 yards in a single season. For the year he had four games where he surpassed 100 yards receiving, including a six-catch, 193-yard performance against Virginia Tech.

The scary thing is, he has still only scratched the surface of his potential.

3 - Santana Moss (97-00): Moss, who originally came to Miami on a track scholarship, is one of the most electrifying players that college football has ever seen. Whether it was after catching a pass or returning a punt or kickoff, this guy was a threat every single time to take it the distance.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a player that could explode and accelerate as quickly as this Carol City alumnus. He could make some of the fastest defensive backs look as though they were standing still.

Moss caught 143 career passes (good for third all-time at UM) for a whopping 2,546 yards, which is tops among all UM wideouts. But that only tells you a fraction of the story. He once uttered the famous words, "Big time players play in Big Time games." He must've been talking about himself.

In big wins over UCLA in 1998 (four catches for 95 yards, including a big 71-yard touchdown), Ohio State in 1999 (three grabs for 115 yards and a momentum-swinging score before the half) and FSU in 2000 (seven catches for 115 yards), Moss came up with one big play after another. And who could forget his acrobatics against FSU in 1999 (nine catches for 180 yards) in a losing cause? Time and time again that year it seemed like he was bailing out Kenny Kelly.

After overcoming an early ankle injury in his senior year he would recover enough to be named the Big East Offensive Player of the Year for 2000, due in large part to his 45 catches for 748 yards and five touchdowns.

Moss was a big time player who made big time plays, over and over again.

2 - Eddie Brown (83-84): If there was a guy who started this rich tradition of playmakers, it's this guy. Brown was, in a word, dangerous. Every time he caught the ball you had to hold your breath. While a lot of receivers slow down when they catch the ball or fight it into their hands, Brown had that rare ability to gain speed and just snatch the ball out of air as if it were a handoff. And once he got the ball in his hands he was like a running back in the open field.

What also made him such a threat was that combined with his world-class speed, he had guts and determination. It wasn't rare to see Brown shaking off defenders, breaking tackles and dragging guys downfield, as he fought for extra yardage.

And like all the other great ones, he had a knack for making plays when it counted.

In the dream season of 1983, Brown only caught 30 passes, but he made them count. In tight games against FSU and East Carolina, Brown had some huge receptions that bailed Miami out or got them to the brink. The late bomb he flagged down from Kosar versus ECU was the key play in Miami's late game-clinching drive against the Pirates. Then in the last regular season game, with an Orange Bowl bid on the line, Brown would snag eight balls for 150 yards including a 37-yard catch-and-run that brought Miami to within 16-14 in the second half. Eventually Miami would kick a late field goal to down the Noles 17-16, keeping their title dreams alive.

Then, in the 1984 Orange Bowl Classic, he burned the Husker secondary with six catches for 115 yards. Against the Nebraska secondary, he looked like a man against boys.

But it was in 1984 where he would explode. Simply put, it's the single-best season any receiver has had at this program. In 12 regular season games he totaled 59 catches for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns. If you haven't seen Brown play, get a tape of the pass-catching exhibitions he put on against Auburn in the Kickoff Classic (8 catches for 157 yards) and Boston College (10 catches for 220 yards). And who can forget him out-racing the Gator secondary in Tampa to haul in a Bernie Kosar fade in the corner of the end zone, to give Miami it's late lead over Florida and the eventual win? Plays like this spoke for themselves.

For his fine efforts he was a consensus All-American.

In just two seasons, Brown caught 89 passes for 1,754 yards, which is good for sixth all-time. He averaged just under 20 yards per reception.

Brown was an absolute game breaker.

1 - Michael Irvin (85-88): Now, I know there will be a large contingent of folks who will rank the above-mentioned Brown above Irvin, and they have a great argument. Choosing between Brown and Irvin is like deciding between Ginger or Mary Ann, or debating between 'Tastes Great' or 'Less Filling' or tabbing Rakim or KRS One. It's a tough choice that has no real wrong answer.

Me, I'm going with 'The Playmaker' by the smallest of margins. While Brown had two great years, Irvin was at just as high a level for three seasons at Miami. While headlining 'the Bomb Squad' - which featured fellow future NFL standouts Brian Blades and Brett Perriman - from 1985 through 1987, Irvin would lead the Canes in receiving every single year.

Without even using his final year of eligibility, Irvin is third in all-time receptions with 143, third in receiving yards with 2,423 and first in touchdown grabs with 26. His 11 touchdown receptions in 1986 is still a seasonal mark.

Irvin was a tall and rangy receiver who was an expert route-runner. He ran some of the sharpest patterns you'll ever see, he was dangerous every time he got the ball, and he caught the ball with ease. Also, his superior size allowed him to break jams at the line and create separation.

If there is one quintessential Irvin game, it had to be the game against Florida State in 1987. While Deion Sanders was exhorting him to quit, while the Canes were getting drilled 19-3, Irvin just buckled down and made some memorable plays. His 26-yard hook-up with Steve Walsh early in the fourth quarter would bring the Canes to within two points at 19-17. Following a successful two-point conversion to Warren Williams, the stage was set for one of the legendary plays in UM history.

With just minutes to go and facing third down deep in their own territory, Irvin would haul in a perfectly thrown ball from Walsh in stride, but Irvin wasn't just content to move the chains - he was going the distance. The sight of Irvin streaking down the sideline in front of stunned crowd at Doak Campbell is embedded in every Cane fan's mind. As he outraced three FSU defenders, Miami would take a 26-19 lead, on their way to a thrilling and improbable 26-25 win that ended up being the key victory in the 1987 championship season.

And that's why he's called 'The Playmaker'

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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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