Top 100 Hurricanes, Post 1980

The Miami Hurricanes football program may not have the longest tradition of excellence, but it's safe to say that since 1980, no program has had the history and achievements of this program. I'll break down who I think are the top 100 players in that time frame. I had a lot to choose from!

Since 1980, the 'U' has won a whopping five national titles, has had two Heisman winners, two Outland Trophy's, three Maxwell Award recipients, two Unitas Award's, two O'Brien Award's, a Thorpe Award, one Butkus, a Lombardi Award and even a Draddy Award winner. And I can't forget a certain home winning streak that spanned 58-games, an NCAA record.

In additon to that, the Hurricanes have had 34 first round picks in that era- 32 have come since 1984, the most of any college program. To go further, no program since 1984 has had as many players drafted within the first three rounds as Miami with 63.

So it's easy to see why Miami has had the most successful college football program for the better part of two decades- great players. No other university has seen as many dominant, dynamic and devastating football players as the Canes.

It was an unenviable task (but a fun and worthwhile one) in selecting the top 100 players who have donned the orange and green during this dynastic run and called the Orange Bowl their home.

The basic criteria that was used in compiling the list was pretty simple: what type of impact did the player have while in Coral Gables? What they did in the NFL has no bearing in our rankings, what count's is what they did on Saturday afternoons as a college football player. And 'impact' goes beyond just mere statistics (of course that's important too, as it's the easiest way to guage a players performance), it's how much they meant to the program, how did they perform in the biggest games, what game-saving or game-winning plays did they make, how did they help the team and program in their years at Miami?

There is no set standard or formula that was used but a confluence of facts, figures and circumstances that were tallied.The only requirement is that you have to have played at least two seasons in the 1980's and beyond. So a guy like Jim Burt was not included in my list. Like any other list that is based on some opinion there is bound to be disagreements, but for better or for worse, here is the top 100 Hurricanes of the past two decades-plus.

101- THE 12TH MAN: Hey, I couldn't leave out the loyal fans of Miami so I cheated a bit. No, the Hurricanes may not have the most fans, but the one's they do have are as rabid and as fiercely supportive as they come. There is no better setting( and louder one) than a big game at the Orange Bowl packed with 70,000-plus screaming Cane fans.

100- Kenny Calhoun (81-84): Now, you want to talk about a player who is here on an impact play, it's Calhoun, who was an overachieving-type safety at UM during an era when the defense took a backseat to our high-powered offenses. But this guy always seemed to be around the ball and he made one of the most important plays in Miami history as he would just get his hand on a pass thrown by Turner Gill intended for Jeff Turner at the goal line, breaking up Nebraska's two-point attempt and securing Miami's 31-30 Orange Bowl upset.

With that play, the Canes would wrap up it's first national title and a dynasty was born. Good thing Kenny was in the right place at the right time.

99- BOBBY GARCIA (87-89): Garcia was a hard-nosed center that had the daunting task of replacing Gregg Rakoczy and the interior of the Hurricanes line didn't miss a beat. Garcia, was your typical late 80's lineman that was coached ably by Tony Wise. Smallish, yet fiesty, quick off the ball and heady.

Garcia played on two national title teams at UM(87 and 89) and provided upfront security for guys like Steve Walsh and Craig Erickson. Garcia's biggest play at UM was his fumble recovery at the three yard line against Notre Dame in 1989. Not only did his hustle( where he had to run at least 30 yards to gain possession of an Erickson fumble) keep the ball out of the Irish's hands, it help set the stage of 'the Play' and 'the Drive' You do remember 3rd and 43 to Randall Hill, right? And the subsequent drive which seemingly took about two hours and 100 plays, that resulted in a 24-10 lead for Miami against arch-rival Notre Dame. None of this is possible without Garcia's heads up play and diligence.

98- BRUCE FLEMING (82-85): Fleming isn't mentioned much when it comes to UM 'backers but he provided steady play throughout his career. Fleming who was a fiery and emotional player was the leading tackler for UM in 84 with 111 stops.

97- DONNELL BENNETT (91-93): Bennett was a strong, physical fullback who played in Dennis Erickson one-back attack. While having to share the rock with the likes of Larry Jones, Danyell Ferguson and James Steward, Bennett was still able to lead UM in rushing in 92 with 437 yards and was second in the 93 season with 594 yards. Bennett, who would leave after his junior year for the NFL scored 15 career touchdowns at Miami.

96- DALE DAWKINS (87-89): Dawkins, who was flashy as they come had to wait his turn behind upperclassmen like Michael Irvin, Brian Blades and Brett Perriman. But when he got his chance to shine in his junior and senior campaigns, he didn't drop the ball.

He was especially good in his senior year of 89, as he had 54 catches for 833 yards and seven touchdowns. All three marks rank in the top ten for UM seasonal records. His defining moment was during that season against Notre Dame, with Wesley Carroll out, Dawkins would more than carry the load, scoring two big touchdowns to lead the Canes to a 27-10 victory. Setting the stage for national title number three.

And Dawkins for as flashy as he was, also did the dirty work, remember it was his big block that sprung Cleveland Gary into the free at Michigan in 88 that brought Miami to within 30-28 in the closing minutes.

95- Derwin Jones (84-87): Jones was 'the other tackle' playing next to Jerome Brown for most of his career. Which must be a lot like being Jan Brady to Marsha. But that doesn't mean that Jones should be completely overlooked because Jones provided a steady partner to Brown on the inside. In fact, he is the all-time leader at UM for assists by a defensive tackle with 98.

How productive would have Damione Lewis been if he had played with a Jones for a couple of seasons?

94- Leonard Conley (87-90): This Smurf-like running back was one of the strongest and toughest Canes ever pound-for-pound. And from his days as a true freshman coming off the bench in 87, he was an exciting and versatile back that helped Miami to two national titles in his days.

Conley, was the leading rusher on the 89 national championship squad with 529 yards and ranks eighth on the all-time rushing list with 1,892 yards. In the 89 Orange Bowl vs. Nebraska, he would send Jimmy Johnson out as a winner with 40 yards on the ground and 94 yards recieving, which included two touchdowns- one of them for 42 yards.

93- JOHN MCVEIGH (84-85): McVeigh was a converted linebacker who was switched to defensive end along with Daniel Stubbs prior to the 85 season as coach Johnson and defensive coordinator Paul Jette revamped UM's defensive scheme after the late season implosion of the 84 defense.

McVeigh, was an all-out hustle player who had good strength at the point of attack but was really known for his second and third efforts in getting to the quarterback. In the 84 opener against Auburn and Bo Jackson in the Kickoff Classic, he seemed to live in the Tigers offensive backfield.

92- Carlos Huerta (88-91): So are kickers football players? That's debatable, but I will say this, if FSU would have had a few more Huerta's then they'd be the one's wearing five national title rings. So looking at it like that, there's no way to keep 'the Ice Man' off this list.

Huerta, who was originally a walk-on, stepped right into the fire in his second game in his first season, as he was called on to kick a game winning field goal with just seconds left against Michigan in Ann Arbor. Huerta, would nail the kick and certain members of the

Michigan band are still in shock.

It would be the start of an amazing career as Huerta would set an NCAA mark for consecutive PAT's with 157, leave as Miami's all time leader in made field goals with 73 and number one in points scored with 397- records that still stand today. Huerta, would cap off his career by making consensus first team All-American in 91.

Part 1 - #101-91
Part 2 - #90-81
Part 3 - #80-71
Part 4 - #70-61
Part 5 - #60-51
Part 6 - #50-41
Part 7 - #40-31
Part 8 - #30-21
Part 9 - #20-10

Steve Kim is a rabid Hurricane fan that has been a loyal visitor of Grassy.com for the past four years. Kim, runs his own website MaxBoxing.com and is their lead columnist covering boxing on a daily basis.

For questions and comments email Steve at k9kim@yahoo.com.

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