DBU is especially known for safeties, and it would be almost impossible to replicate the all-time crop from that position group. But the #CanesCorners aren’t a slouch by any stretch.
The Hurricanes have put a multitude of corners through the program and into the NFL, just like all other position units, but what stands out among these players is their versatility of this group.
All these players on this list played cornerback for the Miami Hurricanes, but some of these players would go on to be known for what they did at other positions, all over the football field, including special teams. Their specific ranking here is a combination of what they did a corner and at other positions, and also takes into account what they did both at Miami and in the NFL.
#5 Duane Starks 1995-1997
The Miami Beach High School standout comes in at number five in this power ranking, where he stood out both as a quarterback and and long jump before jumping to Coral Gables, where he recored six interceptions— including one pick-six— during his time as a starter. He also excelled at returning punts, averaging 11.8 yards per return on 36 touches with one TD.
The Baltimore Ravens drafted him 10th overall in 1998, where he joined forces with Ray Lewis on one of the best defenses in league history. Starks returned an interception for a TD in Super Bowl XXXV, putting the dagger in the New York Giants on their way to a one-sided 34-7 win.
He continued with stints on the Cardinals, Patriots and Raiders, finishing his career in 2007 with 347 tackles, 25 interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
#4 Phillip Buchanan 1999-2001
After his senior year of high school where he was selected as an All-Florida corner at Lehigh High School in Lee County, he was recruited by Butch Davis and enrolled at Miami in 1999. His time in the Orange and Green was one to remember, as he earned All-American honors in 2001, finishing his career in the Orange Bowl with 88 tackles and 7 interceptions. Combined with his skills at defensive back, he also returned punts for the Canes, and took two punt returns to the house to supplement his three touchdowns on defense.
The 2002 Draft saw Oakland pick Buchanan for the 17th pick. Throughout his time with the Raiders, Texans, Buccaneers, Lions and Redskins, he was responsible for 388 tackles, eight fumbles and five interceptions before retiring in 2011.
#3 Ryan McNeil 1989-1992
The Fort Pierce native jumped into the starting lineup as a freshman after an injury to then-starter Kenny Berry. McNeil’s impact was felt right away, with the youngster recording 15 tackles that year, however, his production jumped in year two, with an impressive 34 tackles and an interception as a sophomore. He would finish with 121 total tackles and eight picks, earning All-American honors in ‘92 to go along with National Title rings in ‘89 and ‘91.
McNeil went 33rd overall in the 1993 Draft to the Detroit Lions, and would lead the league in interceptions ‘97 with nine while playing for the St. Louis Rams. After stops in Cleveland, Dallas, San Diego and Denver, McNeil’s career ended after the 2003 season with 696 career tackles and 31 interceptions.
#2 Devin Hester 2003-2005
We all know Hester is the greatest returner of all time, but what many people don’t know is that he came into Miami listed as a corner. Lost in his six return TDs is the fact he is one of the better corners in this program’s recent history, with five interceptions and 57 tackles on defense for the Hurricanes. While those numbers alone may not jump off the page, it supplements an interminable list of accomplishments on special teams, and for that, people will never forget this listed defensive back.
#1 Antrel Rolle 2001-2004
And at number one, we have Antrel Rolle. He played a bench role on the ‘01 championship team, totaling eight tackles as a freshman. However, his next three seasons as a starter saw him put up video game-like stats, including 66, 51 and 58 tackles including thirteen total for loss to go along with five interceptions. He was selected as an All-Big East in 2002, All-ACC and All-American in 2004 and also won the Jack Tatum trophy that year as the best college defensive back.
He rode this momentum to the draft, going eighth overall in 2005 to the Arizona Cardinals. After five years in Phoenix— where he was converted to safety by head coach Ken Whisenhunt in 2008— he spent another half-decade with the New York Giants, winning a Super Bowl in 2011 before retiring as a Chicago Bear after the 2015 season.
He finished with 834 tackles, 26 interceptions— including four TD returns, and six fumble recoveries through his NFL career as a corner and safety.