Hurricane Elite: MLB

'Quarterback U' has also become 'Linebacker U' due in large part to the play of the middle linebackers that have come through this program. The top middle linebackers ever at Miami reads like an NFL All-Pro team and with two of the top five being recent graduates there is no slowing down for the Miami Hurricanes!


10 - Bernard Clark (86-89): Clark may have not been the most consistent performer, but did anybody step up in big games like 'Tiger' Clark?

Clark stepped into the breach for a suspended George Mira Jr. in the 1988 Orange Bowl Classic against the vaunted running attack of the Oklahoma Sooners. Clark's job was to consistently stuff Sooners fullback Lydell Carr. And he did time and time again to a tune of 12 unassisted tackles (14 total) to neutralize the Sooners' prolific wishbone attack. Miami would go on to beat OU for a third straight time, 20-14 and capture its second national title.

Then there was the '89 grudge match against Notre Dame. Against the powerful Irish ground attack led by Tony Rice and Ricky Watters, Clark would lead the Cane charge with 13 tackles and a huge interception that he returned inside the Notre Dame ten yard line that put Miami in position to take a 17-10 halftime lead. His play was the single-biggest momentum switch of the game.

Clark has a boisterous personality and played with great emotion. He was an old-school Cane, who let you know how well he was playing.

He finished out his career at UM by outplaying the more highly-touted Keith McCants of Alabama in the 1990 Sugar Bowl. Miami would go on to win that game 33-25 and win its third title ring.

9 - Scott Nicolas (78-81): Nicolas, who played in the 5-2 defensive alignment of the early 80's, was a highly- productive player who found himself on the bottom of a lot of piles.

For his career he had 456 career tackles, which ranks third all-time at UM.

8 - George Mira Jr. (84-87): Steady would be the best way to describe Mira, who for three years was a tackling machine inside for the Hurricanes.

Mira was not as physically gifted as his other teammates but he was a dependable player who could always be relied upon to make his share of tackles.

Before Dan Morgan came along, his 490 career tackles was the UM mark for more than a decade.

7 - Jay Brophy (79, 81-83): Brophy was the first of the All-American 'backers to come through Coral Gables in the early 80's. Brophy, who was a consensus All-American in Miami's first championship season of 1983, led the Canes in tackles in '82 (with 135 stops) and '83 (with 133).

This native of Akron, Ohio, would finish his career with 308 career tackles.

6- Rod Carter (85-88): From the time 'Hercules' took over for an injured Bruce Fleming halfway through his freshman campaign, Carter was a tackling machine, who could really lay the wood to ball carriers.

At 6'1", 220 pounds, Carter was your typical undersized Miami linebacker that may have lacked a bit of size but more than made up for it with great speed and sideline-to-sideline pursuit. Carter could play either inside or outside in Miami's 4-3 defense.

His 361 career tackles ranks eighth all-time at Miami.

5 - Jonathan Vilma (00-03): Vilma, who came out of nearby Coral Gables High, is one of the most cerebral players - on and off the field - that Miami has ever seen.

Vilma would play a vital role as a backup in his true freshman year playing behind Dan Morgan. He would hold things down inside for the remainder of his career as a Hurricane. Vilma did not have great size for a 'Mike' backer but he relied on reading quickly and beating offenses to the punch.

He punctuated Miami's blowout of Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl with two highlight-reel hits on Cornhusker ball carriers. After leading Miami in tackles in 2002, he would really break out in his senior year.

In seven games last year Vilma finished with double-digit tackle numbers and was named a first team All-American by Walter Camp and a Butkus Award finalist, in addition to being named first team All Big East.

His 377 career stops ranks seventh in Miami history.

4 - Nate Webster (97-99): Webster was one of the most important recruits in the Butch Davis era. Getting this Miami Northwestern Tornado signaled that UM was making inroads back into South Florida.

Webster was a high-energy player who used his emotion to lead his team every Saturday afternoon. Nobody played with as much passion and heart as Webster. And perhaps nobody loved being a Cane like he did, either. Unfortunately, his career would end prematurely with a hasty decision to fax his intention to declare for the 2000 NFL Draft.

It's really too bad, because who knows what heights his career at UM could have reached? After all, in 1998 and 1999, he was named to various All-American teams and CBS Sportsline named him a first team All-American, in addition to being named All-Big East.

In the big road victory in Morgantown in 1998, against a high-powered West Virginia team, Webster set the single-game mark at Miami with 23 tackles, in the Canes thrilling 34-31 win over the Mountaineers.

In 1999, he only got better, with 150 tackles, which is the fourth-best ever single-season total at UM. And he was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week four times. He capped off his career by being named MVP of the 2000 Gator Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Alongside Dan Morgan, he formed one of the most potent 1-2 combos in Miami history.

3 - Michael Barrow (89-92): 'Bam Bam' Barrow was the centerpiece of perhaps the greatest trio of linebackers that college football has ever seen. While his running mates Darrin Smith and Jesse Armstead provided the speed and quickness, Barrow provided the muscle inside.

Barrow started getting significant playing time in 1990 and he only got better and better. He was equally effective plugging holes in the running game or dropping off into coverage. This was a middle linebacker that didn't need to be pulled on third-and- longs.

In his senior year of 1992, he put on one of the greatest individual seasons a Hurricane has ever had. From his big stick of Tamarick Vanover (one of 19 tackles in Miami's 19-16 win over the Seminoles) and his tackle of Richie Anderson on fourth-and-one against Penn St., nobody in the country made as many key plays as Barrow did that season.

For his efforts he was a consensus All-American, Big East Player of the Year, a runner-up for the Butkus Award and to cap it off, he also finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

His 423 career tackles ranks fourth all-time in program history.

2 - Dan Morgan (97-00): Who would have thought that his converted fullback would become of one of the greatest linebackers of the past generation? Morgan seemed to have a nose for the ball and a habit of making big plays when it mattered the most.

When he got playing time as a true freshman, Miami was a program in transition and had a record of 5-6 in 1997. By the time he left in 2000, he was a dominant player on a program ready to dominate like they had in the past.

If there is one game that stands out for Morgan, it had to be his senior year against FSU in 2000. Playing in the oppressive heat of Miami, Morgan would register 17 tackles and an interception of a Chris Weinke pass in the end zone right before the half. Then in the locker room, an exhausted and dehydrated Morgan would need fluids put back into his system. Like the trooper he is, he would eventually find his way back onto field, not only fighting the 'Noles but the elements and himself.

It was this 27-24 win that let the rest of the country know that the Canes were back - and here to stay.

His 532 career tackles is tops in Miami history but they are far from his most impressive achievement. In 2000, he would hit a home run on the awards circuit; not only would he be named a consensus All-American, he would also win the Butkus, Nagurski and Bednarik Awards for his stellar play. And he was also tabbed as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, to boot.

1 - Ray Lewis (93-95): To say that Ray Lewis flew under the radar would be an understatement. As a late signee in 1993, he isn't even listed in that year's media guide. But he would quickly make himself a household name around the country.

As Robert Bass went down with a knee injury early in that season, Lewis - who had just been on the UM campus for several weeks - was thrust into duty. His first start would come in Boulder, Colorado against the star-studded Buffaloes whose offense featured guys like Kordell Stewart, Charles Johnson, Michael Westbrook, Rashaan Salaam and Christian Fauria.

All Lewis did was make 17 tackles and register a sack. It was just the beginning for this football prodigy.

In 1994, he was one of the key members of a defense that was among the nation's elite. He was named a second team All-American with 154 tackles and set the record for solo stops with 91. Then in 1995, without the services of Warren Sapp and Pat Riley up front, he did his best to single-handedly keep UM in games in which they were over-matched against UCLA and FSU.

But he still registered 160 tackles, and broke his own mark with 95 solo stops. Not only was he a consensus All-American, he fell just one vote short of winning the Butkus Award.

Not only was Lewis spectacular, he was also consistent. Think about this: for an amazing run of 22 games, Lewis was the leading tackler every single game for Miami. His 388 career stops ranks sixth in UM history.

And he did all this in just three years.

From the time he stepped on campus, until the time he left, he was the best linebacker the program had. And he's the best the program's ever seen.

Steve Kim is a regular contributor to Canestime and runs his own website at For questions or comments, he can be reached at

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