Miami isn’t looked as an offensive lineman factory like it is like many of the other positions it has produced over the years. Nonetheless, Miami has an underrated tradition of strong, blue-collar offensive lineman running through the program’s blood. From before prominence to its rise in the 80’s, all the way up to the new millennia, Miami o-linemen have been a tough bunch. Here’s what a Mount Rushmore of Canes’ offensive linemen just might look like.
5. Vernon Carey (1999-2003)
Carey had, literally, big shoes to fill in replacing Bryant McKinnie but did so admirably in his time at Coral Gables. After lettering in football and basketball at Miami Northwestern, Carey joined the Canes and bided his time behind someone who will show up later on in this list. When it was his time to step up, he did just that, playing very well as a redshirt junior in 2002’s 12 win season.
He started every game and racked up 42 pancakes at right tackle. He proved his versatility the following season, moving to left guard as a senior and continuing to lead the team in pancakes despite playing a new position. Carey was a first round pick the following year and had an eight year career in the NFL, garnering over 100 starts.
4. Brett Romberg (1999-2002)
Romberg was a key piece along the offensive line during Miami’s stretch of excellence in the early 2000’s. Starting at center for three straight seasons, Romberg was as steady as they came for the Canes’ offensive line, anchoring the middle and keeping rushing lanes open for Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee.
The Canadian-born center did not give up a single sack during his three years starting and was a part of Miami teams that totaled 35 wins over three years. He was also won the Dave Rimington trophy as college football’s best center in 2002.
3. Jim Otto (1957-59)
The original at Miami, not just among offensive linemen. Otto played for Miami at a time before The U was even a thing. Nonetheless he was a tireless contributor and superb athlete, starting at both center and linebacker for the Hurricanes.
While it’s nearly impossible to find stats for Otto’s college career, his NFL one is Hall of Fame worthy; he was inducted into Canton in 1980, his first year of eligibility. He was selected to 12 All-Pro teams as an Oakland Raider and played 210 straight games.
2. Leon Searcy (1988-91)
One of the best tackles to ever suit up for the Hurricanes, Searcy was a crucial piece during the beginning of the Dennis Erickson era, keeping QBs such as Steve Walsh and Gino Toretta upright. Searcy was an excellent pass blocker, capable in his kick slide and possessed polished hands to keep edge rushers away from his quarterback.
Searcy lettered in the four years he received significant playing time and started every game during the last three years of his career. He was a first or second team All-American (depending on the publication) in his senior season and helped guide Miami to its fourth national championship.
1. Bryant McKinnie (2000-01)
The easiest part of making this list was putting big number 78 in the top spot. McKinnie earns the number one ranking for a variety of reasons. Physically, he was a rare offensive lineman. At 6’8” and 350 pounds, there just aren’t many men built like that. In addition, he could move well for someone that huge, able to throw defensive ends to the ground as easily as he could kickslide out and meet a speed rusher at the edge.
McKinnie lived up to his physical profile, playing at a high level that cemented him as not only the best Miami lineman but one of the best in the history of college football. McKinnie was a first team All-American in 2000 and shut out Lombardi Award winner Jamal Reynolds in Miami’s 27-24 victory over FSU. Just like the rest of his teammates, McKinnie’s star shined extra bright in 2001. Besides helping his offense account for more than 470 points and 3,500 total yards in a championship season, McKinnie took home many accolades for himself.
McKinnie was only the second Cane, along with Russell Maryland, to win the Outland Trophy and also took home the Jim Parker award. He was once again an All-American and even finished 8th in Heisman voting with 26 first place votes. There is no doubting just how great McKinnie was in his time at Miami, dominating in the short time with the Canes before moving on to an equally prestigious NFL career.