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Countdown to Kickoff: Top Canes to Wear 28

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Rose Bowl X
Clinton gunnn run to daylight.

We’re almost there, guys! 28 days, 4 weeks or 672 hours until the Canes play their first game of 2017-18 at Hard Rock Stadium. In this installment of the countdown we review the career that was for Clinton Portis and the current Cane who don’s the number 28 Michael Jackson.

Portis came to Miami via the Gainesville area and was a lightning fast running back and corner. Portis had a few offers during his senior year but Miami was the only to offer him an opportunity as a running back specifically, the other D1 programs to offer Portis preferred he play corner. Portis was not just a grid iron star, he exceled in both track (100 meter runner) and field (high jumping).

When Portis got to Miami it was expected that he was going to redshirt due to the fact that he was splitting carries with both upper classmen Najeh Davenport and James Jackson. However, early in his freshman season (’99) both players went down with injuries so Portis was asked to “tote the rock” from week four all the way through the bowl game at the end of the year. Suffice to say, with no other running backs splitting the carrying load, the fleet of foot Portis exploded onto the scene. He finished his freshman season as a freshmen all-American and totaled 838 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to boot.

Heading into his sophomore year, even with having the previous season’s accolades, Portis was still slotted behind James Jackson during the 2000 campaign. Even though Portis didn’t get as many touches his sophomore year when compared to his freshman season, he made them count. Portis ripped off long gains of 61, 82 and even a 59 yard pass reception during the season to make all Canes fans aware, even if he was a backup, he would make opponents pay with his game breaking abilities. For the year, Portis amassed 485 yards and two touchdowns on the season. His shining moment during the 2000 season was the bowl game against Florida. Heading into the second half Jackson sustained an injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the game. Portis popped into the lineup as the every down back and scampered for 94 yards to pace the Canes to yet another victory over his former home town team.

With both Jackson and Davenport off the roster, Portis was being counted on as the every down back for Miami heading into the ’01 season and he very much delivered. The ’01 season for Miami was really a perfect storm (pardon the pun) of mass talent on a single team simply destroying each opponent that stood in their way. Portis was a big part of that in that as he amassed 1,325 total yards and 11 touchdowns but what’s interesting is many people point to Ken Dorsey as the true “leader” of the ’01 team but really you could argue it was Portis who got the Canes through their two toughest games: Boston College and Virginia Tech. Everyone remembers Ed Reed scooping and scoring the fumble against BC but do you remember that Portis had 36 carries for 160 yards? Or do you remember that during the 26-24 win against VT he had 36 carries for 124 yards? Andre Johnson, Shockey and others got a lot of recognition for that magical team but Portis was the main catalyst to get things going.

After stomping Nebraska in the National Title, Portis decided to enter the NFL Draft. The Denver Broncos selected him in the second round. During his first two seasons as a Bronco, Portis was putting up video-game-like numbers. In his only two seasons as a Bronco he averaged, let me stress that again: averaged 1,800 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns. Nice..

I’m not too sure why it happened, maybe Mike Shanahan wanted to prove he could plug in another running back just as capable as Portis or the fact that the Redskins were offering Champ Bailey in a trade but whatever the reason, the Skins and Broncos swapped the two players and the Skins even added a second round pick to boot (turned into Tatum Bell). Portis’ seven year tenure on the Skins was not nearly as successful as his two year run on the Broncos but he still put up probowl numbers in four of his seven years in DC.

As a local Redskins fan (thanks Cam for giving me all the countdown numbers of former Canes-turned-Skins players!) I can tell you not all down shifting of his performance in DC was Portis’ fault. Coach Gibbs, in his second tenure in DC, still used archaic personnel styles (one primary back, not back by committee) and play calls (zone running? Wut?) which led to Portis being run into the ground. In each of his two seasons in Denver, Portis tallied huge numbers as mentioned before. However, he only carried the ball about 280 times each season. In Portis’ four great years in DC (mixed in with three injury plagued seasons) he tallied about 350 carries on average. That bump in carries you could point to as a possible reason for an abbreviated career for Portis but I digress. For his career, Portis finished with close to 10,000 yards rushing and 80 touchdowns.

The current Cane to wear 28 is cornerback Michael Jackson. As a rising junior, Jackson has seen time primarily on special teams where he’s been regarded to as an “ace” coverage specialist. Heading into his third season, Jackson is looking to potentially break the base defense rotation as a third or fourth corner. We’ll have to wait for the preseason depth chart to see if Jackson is able to crack the lineup.

What do you think of the countdown to kick off? Leave your comments here and we’ll get back to them.