Hard to dispute the numbers

National championship No. 5 for the Hurricanes has done more than just raise them to the top of the college football world after a 10-year hiatus. It has also started a debate on which of the UM team was the ‘greatest of all-time'.

Was it the 1983 Hurricanes, who were staggered in Gainesville to start the season before riding the leadership of an unknown freshman quarterback all the way to a national title?

Are the 1987 Hurricanes worthy of the honor after going wire-to-wire undefeated despite losing a Heisman Trophy recipient and having to put up with off-season rumors of their coach resigning?

Do the 1989 Hurricanes deserve it more for overcoming a coaching change and a mid-season setback at the hands of their state-rival only to finish the year basking in all the sweetness?

Should the 1991 Hurricanes be put in the same class after enduring a quaterback controversy and surviving another close call with the Seminoles?

What about the 2001 Hurricanes, who lit up the scoreboard quickly and often- on offense and defense?

"The great thing about this team is they had character," University of Miami head coach Larry Coker said about the this year's team, 37-14 winners over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. "These guys were a lot of fun to be around."

And quite frankly, it's hard to argue with them on whether or not they are better than any of the Hurricane championship squads of the past. Individually, players the likes of Warren Sapp, Bernie Kosar, Russell Maryland, Dan Stubbs, Mike Barrow, Cortez Kennedy and Jessie Armstead offer a strong case for their respective UM teams of the 80's and early 90's.

But statistics are the No. 1 source in all of sports and the numbers assembled by the 2001 Hurricanes were mind-boggling. And those numbers were produced even though the Hurricanes were the true definition of balance.

UM threw the ball 375 times and ran it 448 times. Not the numbers needed to win a Heisman. Just everything else.

Quarterback Ken Dorsey may not produce the flash of a Roy Jones Jr. ring entrance, but he just keeps knocking out opponent. After helping guide the Hurricanes to a 12-0 record and national title, Dorsey is now a school-best 26-1 as a starting quarterback at the University of Miami. Dorsey was the architect of an offense this season that produced a school-record 517 points, surpassing the 506 points scored by last year's squad also led by Dorsey. Dorsey started the season seventh all-time on the Canes career touchdown pass list behind Bernie Kosar. By season's end he was first with 61.

Dorsey, a junior, didn't have the greatest statistical season of all time (3,014 passing yards, 26 TDs, 10 interceptions), but that was because he sat on the sidelines during many of the third and fourth quarters of games this season enjoying blowouts. But while he was in there, Dorsey was accurate and played within the structure of the offense.

Despite all the weapons on offense, running back Clinton Portis amazingly became the fifth player in UM history to rush over 1,000 yards in a season in 2001. Portis, who declared for the NFL Draft earlier this week, finished the year with six straight 100-yard rushing games and now owns the school record with 12.

No Miami receiver neared 1,000-yard plateau, instead killing opposing defensive backs slowly. The Hurricanes had a lot of possession-type passing plays this season. The longest reception of the season was a 64-yarder by Andre Johnson. The Hurricanes offensive-line was the clearly the best this season and perhaps they'll never have another equal for as long as the game is played. In Bryant McKinnie, Martin Bibla, Joaquin Gonzalez, Brett Romberg and Sherko Haji-Rasouli (before he was injured) will be remembered as the best- bar none. Dorsey was sacked three times all season and these guys were the reason why. Most or all of them will play on Sundays and have no trouble paying at the register.

The Hurricanes defense left a mark of their own. What the unit did to the Cornhuskers in the season finale was nothing out of the ordinary. The UM defense allowed 117 points all season and entered the Rose Bowl giving up 9.4 points a game.

Ed Reed and company also made things happen, creating 48 turnovers and accounting for 79 points. The Hurricanes led the nation in non-offensive touchdowns with 11. Reed, who started the year with 12 interceptions in his career, had nine interceptions this season and bolted to the top of the record books.

Linebacker Jon Vilma had 80 tackles to led the entire defense and although most of the big names on the unit will play in the pros next year, don't forget the names of Vilma, Vince Wilfork, Al Marshall, John Square and Antrel Rolle.

So, let's see: An accurate quarterback; A running back that hardly went backwards; a receiving corp that caught almost everything thrown to them; a tight end in Jeremy Shockey that developed into Dorsey's favorite target; and a defense that stingy.

The ‘91 squad that defeated Nebraska 22-0 in the Orange Bowl wasn't as menacing on offense (386 points), although the defense gave up 100 points all season. Miami recorded two shutouts that season and allowed just a field goal in three other games. That was no surprise considering the Hurricanes featured future NFL players Warren Sapp, Jessie Armstead, Darryl Williams, Ryan McNeil, and Mike Barrow.

Toretta, a seventh-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings, led the Hurricanes offense that season and was only the second Heisman Trophy winner in Miami history. Lamar Thomas and Horace Copeland, who also went on to pro careers, were Toretta's main targets. This team was also so good on defense that they didn't need plenty of points.

The ‘89 Canes finished off Alabama 33-25 in the Sugar Bowl to conclude a 11-1 season and give Dennis Erickson his first of two national titles. Miami torched team on offense with 426 points and only gave up 127 on D. Sophomore Craig Erickson engineered an offense that scored 51 points in a season-opening victory against Wisconsin and added a 56-0 win against Cincinnati and 48 points against San Jose State. Mike Barrow, Cortez Kennedy, Darrin Smith, and Jessie Armstead were all on squad. Greg Mark was an All-American.

Before taking off for Dallas, Jimmy Johnson stuck around and the ‘87 Canes captured title No. 2. Was this the best ever? The Canes outscored the opposition 412-125 and ended the season with a 20-14 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Russell Maryland, Bernard Clark and co. posted just one shutout, but it was a big one: 24-0 over Notre Dame. The Hurricanes beat five ranked teams.

The Hurricanes inaugural championship team tends to be the most remembered among fans and school officials because it was the first. Although, clearly not the best. Yes that freshman QB (Bernie Kosar) went on to a productive career he didn't exactly send tremors through opponents. Miami scored just 313 points and it took a last second tip of a Nebraska two-point conversion to send the Canes off to glory,

As evident a lot of talent has walked through the doors at the Hecht Center. But it would be a stretch to rank them over the 2001 team.

The '89 defensive front of Jimmie Jones, Russell Maryland and Cortez Kennedy was incredible, although this season's team had a lot more options in depth. Jonathan Vilma may not be at the same level that Darrin Smith and Bernard Clark were at his current stage, but he'll be better than both of them With just another average season, Dorsey could rank better than any other UM quarterback. And there was no secondary even close to that of Reed, Lewis, Buchanon and Rumph.

Sorry Bernie, Jimmy, Gino and Lamar.

My vote goes to the 2001.

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