Applying pressure on the offensive is an important aspect of any football game. When it comes to producing edge rushers in the NFL, the University of Miami has developed some of football’s most disruptive defenders along the defensive line. In today’s edition of the Top Five ProCanes, we countdown former UM stars at defensive end who’ve left favorable impressions in the NFL.
Donald Loren Smith — A first round selection of the Atlanta Falcons in the 1979 NFL Draft, Don Smith spent eight seasons along their defensive line. Beginning his career with the Falcons, Smith spent his rookie season as a defensive end before being moved to defensive tackle for the following four seasons. Listed at 6’5”, 256 pounds, it was surprising to learn that Smith was considered a nose tackle during his run with the Falcons. However, Smith was able to generate pressure regardless of where he lined up, collecting 18.5 sacks in 111 games.
Unfortunately, no one really kept track of tackles-for-loss, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries during his era.
Allen Bailey — Placed just outside our top five defensive end list, you can make the argument that Allen Bailey is top five on the ‘Physically Imposing ProCane’ list. Hailing from Sapelo Island, Georgia this 6’3”, 288 pound menace of a DE has made a career setting the edge for the Kansas City Chiefs. As a 3-4 defensive end, there’s less emphasis on tallying sacks. However, Bailey has been able to drum up a respectable stat line of 207 tackles 34 TFL, 4 FF, 7 FR, 19.5 sacks and 6 passes defended in eight seasons. If he had not been put on season-ending injured reserve in 2012 and 2016, Bailey probably would’ve made our top five.
Jerome McDougle — With a career that was shortened by an act of senseless violence, we’re left wondering what could have been regarding the career of Jerome McDougle. Selected 15th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2003 NFL Draft, McDougle was an immediate contributor. Over the course of his four seasons in the league, McDougle tallied 37 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss, 5 passes defended and a forced fumble.
Many a Hurricane fan was perplexed when Olivier Vernon decided to forgo his senior year at UM and enter the 2012 NFL Draft as an underclassman. Selected in the third round by the Miami Dolphins, the American HS alum used his rookie season to develop, working himself into the defensive rotation. In 2013, Vernon became a starter for the Phins, racking up a career-best 11.5 sacks. He became the disruptive force Hurricanes fans saw when he attended UM and was named a First Team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus after the 2015 season. With his success with the Dolphins on his résumé, the New York Giants foresaw Vernon replicating that production for them. He accomplished that his first season in the Big Apple, where he would be named a Second Team All-Pro by the Associated Press. Unfortunately, the proceeding seasons saw Vernon unable to play 16 games.
With a change of scenery this past offseason — he was traded to Cleveland for OT Kevin Zeitler — Vernon has a fresh start with a revamped defense that figures to be a contender for seasons to come.
Oliver Vernon’s Stats:
Forced Fumbles: 7
Fumble Recoveries: 2
This Vero Beach, Florida, native made history before he ever set foot on an NFL field. Kenny Holmes has the distinction of being the last first round selection of the Houston Oilers — now Tennessee Titans — back in 1997. A rotational starter for Tennessee during his four seasons with the team, Holmes’ seven sacks as a rookie paid immediate dividends for the team. Alongside Jevon Kearse, the Titans earned their way to a Super Bowl XXXIV berth. Holmes and the Titans came up short against the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’, but the defensive end continued to apply pressure in the following four seasons.
Kenny Holmes’ Stats:
Forced Fumbles: 9
Fumble Recoveries: 9
Born in Orlando, Florida, Kenard Lang’s NFL career took him across the country. In his 10 seasons in the league, the product of Maynard Evans HS would play for the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos. A first round pick of Washington in the 1997 NFL Draft, Lang was thrust into the shark-infested waters of the NFL. Lang started 11 games his rookie year, tallying 35 tackles to stay afloat in Washington. His production would continue to blossom for the remainder of his pro tenure. Lang finished his playing days as one of the more reliable pass rushers in the league, starting 117 of his 153 career games. He even spent time as a DT and linebacker later in his career.
These days, Lang is giving his wisdom to the young men of FIU as the team’s defensive line coach.
Tackles for Loss: 72
Forced Fumbles: 13
Fumble Recoveries: 7
Passes Defended: 28
Similar to many of the men on this list, Stubbs was a legend at UM who developed into a star in the NFL. Standing at 6’5”, 265 pounds, Stubbs had the appearance of your traditional defensive end. After being selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1988 NFL Draft, he proved that he could provide the production to backup his image. Although he started just one game, Stubbs was named to the ‘88 All-Rookie Team after stacking up 25 tackles, 6 sacks and a forced fumble in his introduction to the league. Stubbs helped the Niners bring home a Super XXIV win with two sacks and a fumble recovery in the 1989 championship game. It’s a pretty good life when you bring home a pair of Super Bowl rings after your first two seasons in the league!
The New Jersey native would be reunited with former UM coach Jimmy Johnson the following season before being waived a year later by the team. After 11 seasons, Stubbs would play for Miami and Philadelphia as well. Although he often got home on the pass rush, Stubbs was considered a situational pass rusher. However, when you secure 51.5 sacks in your career, you might as well remove the “situational” from the tagline and substitute it with “efficient”.
A journeyman that has played on both coasts in his career, it’s hard to argue against Danny Stubbs’ production throughout his career.
Danny Stubb’s Stats:
Tackles for Loss: N/A
Forced Fumbles: 9
Fumble Recoveries: 7
Touted as the “King of Duval”, we crown Calais Campbell as our King of the Defensive Ends. Spending nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Campbell has strung together a productive NFL career. It’s hard to miss the 6’8”, 300+ pound defensive end on game day. Known for his physicality at the point of attack, Campbell’s versatility to line up as an edge rusher or interior disruptor are hallmarks of his career. Of course, Campbell’s unique voice is another.
On his way to chasing after plays, Campbell has earned four trips to the Pro Bowl (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018). In 2017, the big man put together an all-time great season, amassing 67 tackles, 14.5 sacks (career high), three forced fumbles and a fumble returned for a touchdown. That career-making year earned him First Team All-Pro honors, a trip to the Pro Bowl and consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. A pillar of consistency, Campbell has started 152 of his 170 games.
The only thing left to check off on his career would be to win the Lombardi Trophy. Given his impact throughout his years, we don’t doubt Campbell will be hoisting the trophy with confetti raining down on him before his career concludes.
Calais Campbell’s Stats:
Forced Fumbles: 12
Fumble Recoveries: 10
Passes Defended: 47
First Team All-Pro: 2016 and 2017
Second Team All-Pro: 2014 and 2015
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!