National title teams are often built around two or three really big recruiting classes. Miami pulled off some of the most impressive recruiting feats to build the 87-92 run that saw the ‘Canes play for four national titles and remain in the top three for six consecutive years. Jimmy Johnson recruited in the 1987-1988 classes and Dennis Erickson helped to close on the 1989 class that Johnson had lured in all the way up to signing day. These were classes that kept the Miami “team of the 80’s” legacy in tact and brought the “NFL U” moniker to life and the “Miami Rule” as well.
In 1987, the ‘Canes were coming off the Fiesta Bowl Fiasco and needed to reload in a hurry with the amount of talent heading to the NFL like Quarterback Vinny Testaverde and Defensive Tackle Jerome Brown. The ‘87 team that won the title wasn’t built on this class or needing that much help from these freshman, but it was a group that could learn from the remaining veterans and would win the 1989 title. The ‘87 class included Hurricane legends like Randal Hill who was brought in as a DB, NFL All-Pro OT Leon Searcy, QB Craig Erickson, LB Maurice Crum and DB Robert Bailey. It also included multi-year starters like DB Hurlie Brown, DE Anthony Hamlet, DB Roland Smith, and RB Leonard Conley.
The 1988 class had NFL standouts and All-Americans throughout including Heisman winner and 1991 national title starting QB Gino Torretta, LB Darrin Smith, LB Michael Barrow, OL Mario Cristobal, DB Ryan McNeil, WR Lamar Thomas, TE Coleman Bell, RB Stephen McGuire, DL Mark Caeser, and an NFL Hall of Fame DT in JUCO transfer Cortez Kennedy. Kennedy played a huge role on the 1989 team, while the rest were big figures in 1990-1992. This freshman class only lost 4 games over four years (88-91) and won two national titles.
In 1989, Miami brought in one of the top rated, if not the #1 player in the nation, Linebacker Jessie Armstead. Jessie was featured in Friday Night Lights (the book), as well as in the media for his Dallas-Carter teammate and best friend’s role in armed robberies of video stores and restaurants. Jessie came in with JUCO WR Wesley Carroll, OL Rudy Barber, WR Horace Copeland, DE Kevin Patrick, DE Rusty Medearis, WR Kevin Williams, and DB Terris Harris. Carroll was a huge part of the ‘89 and ‘90 teams, while Barber, Copeland, Patrick, and Williams made their mark for the 90-92 teams. Rusty Medearis was probably the most talented of them all, but a knee injury derailed his career, he was a star of the 1991 team and an All-American. Rusty would try a comeback but never recovered from the dislocated knee and torn ligaments.
Those three classes would produce NFL players, Hall of Fame NFL players, national champions, national award winners, All-Americans, Super Bowl competitors, and a vast amount of coaches. Thomas, Patrick, Barrow, Cristobal, Smith and Searcy have all been coaches at either the D1 college or NFL level. Hill has run for office in Miami, and Torretta has an ESPN radio show. Armstead still works for the Giants as a special assistant.