The Miami Hurricanes are coming off of an offensive line crisis that crippled the 2019 season. Miami has mixed in poor recruiting with little development and bad deployment to wind up having squandered the talent of a haul of former four-star prospects and the demand to start true freshmen and take in graduate transfers.
The ‘Canes signed two offensive linemen in the 2020 class: Jalen Rivers and Chris Washington. Rivers is a four-star with unlimited potential and three-star Chris Washington looks like a project. That leaves Miami offensive line coach Garin Justice and strength coach Dave Feeley with the need to develop what’s already on campus in a hurry and for Rhett Lashlee to work his scheme around the deficiencies. Justice also needs to recruit in some immediate differences makers for the 2021 season, and he has verbal commitments from two South Florida four-star prospects already.
But the question has to be where have the best offensive line prospects come from? Let’s take a look at who the best ‘Canes linemen have been and where Art Kehoe, and maybe like some other coach or two but mostly Kehoe, was able to find them.
Two of Miami’s greatest linemen of all time hailed from our friendly neighbors to the north- Canada. Brett Romberg and Richard Mercier were interior linemen for the ‘Canes that were both award winners and NFL players.
Romberg came to Miami as the second rated Canadian player in his class, and starter at Miami from 2000-2002. Romberg started 37 games, won 35 games as a player, the 2001 national championship and was All-BIG EAST and an All-American. Romberg played in the NFL for nine seasons. In 2013, Romberg was named to the UM Sports Hall of Fame.
Mercier also came to Miami as the second ranked player from Canada in his class and is also in the UM Sports Hall of Fame. An outstanding guard on the offensive line, Mercier played at Miami from 1995-1999. With 48 career pancake blocks, Mercier took Miami’s all-time lead from Mike Sullivan as well as All-American and All Conference honors. Mercier went on the play in the NFL for three seasons.
Jim Otto, Mike Sullivan, Matt Patchan Sr, and Nick Chickillo are all “midwestern” players that were legendary Miami Hurricanes. I put midwestern in quotes because I’m going to include Pennsylvania in that category.
Jim Otto came to Miami from Wisconsin and played for the ‘Canes from 1957-1959. Otto is not only in the UM Sports Hall of Fame but the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well. Jim was an Oakland Raider in the AFL and was voted to three Pro Bowls and named a first-team All Pro two times.
Chicago native Mike Sullivan redshirted at Miami in 1986 but cut his teeth against Jerome Brown in practice with the scout team. By 1987, Mike was a starter on the line and never looked back. Sullivan started at Miami from 1987-1990. With Sullivan at guard and tackle, Miami finished with a 44-4 record as a program and won the 1987 and 1989 national championships. Sullivan played in the NFL and is in the UM Sports Hall of Fame.
Pennsylvania native Matt Patchan Sr played at the University of Miami from 1983-1987 and was a left tackle for two Miami national championship teams (83, 87). Patchan was later a third round pick in the NFL but his career was cut short due to injury and illness. Patchan had two sons who played college football in Matt Jr (Florida, Boston College) and Scott (Miami, Colorado State).
Nick Chickillo played at Miami from 1949-1952, is in the UM Sports Hall of Fame, and was a two-way star on the offensive and defensive line at Miami. Chickillo, from Pennsylvania, won an Orange Bowl game, started for three years, and was on 21-11-1 squads at Miami.
Two Hurricane legends came from Midland, Texas in KC Jones and Eric Winston. Jones (born in Denver, CO) started 12 games at Miami before his 20th birthday. By the 1996 season, Jones was a three year All-BIG EAST center, an All-American and a runner-up for the Outland and Lombardi Trophies. Jones is an UM Sports Hall of Famer and two time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos.
Eric Winston came to Miami as a tight end but was moved to tackle before his sophomore season. Even after a torn ACL, Winston was an All-American tackle for the ‘Canes and became a third round NFL draft pick. Winston started 127 games in the NFL from 2006-2017.
New Jersey and D.C.
Bryant McKinnie, Gregg Rakoczy and Leon Searcy hail from the New Jersey or D.C. area and became Miami all-time greats in orange and green.
New Jersey native Bryant McKinnie is probably the greatest college offensive lineman for The U. As a starting left tackle, McKinnie won a national championship in 2001, was a two-time All-American, and did not give up a single sack in two seasons for the ‘Canes. The 2001 Outland Trophy winner was a 7th overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft and played in the league from 2002-2013, including a Super Bowl title. McKinnie made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and started 162 career games.
Gregg Rakoczy is another Jersey native that started for the ‘Canes on the line. Through four seasons in Miami Rakoczy finished 40-9 including winning the 1984 Orange Bowl and 1983 national championship. Rakoczy went on to play in the NFL from 1987-1992 and was a 2nd round draft pick.
The only D.C. native on the list is 30 for 30 Broke and The U star Leon Searcy. Leon was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, after playing at Miami from 1987-1991. Searcy redshirted for the ‘Canes 1987 national championship team and was a starter for the 1989 and 1991 title teams. Searcy wrapped up his stay in Coral Gables with All-BIG EAST and All-American honors at left tackle. Leon was an eventual 11th overall pick in the NFL Draft and played in the league from 1992-2002 making the 1999 Pro Bowl.
The Florida Boys
Vernon Carey, Kelvin Harris, Chris Myers, Brandon Linder, and Joaquin Gonzalez make up the Florida Boys. Over the past few decades, the local kids have also contributed on the Miami offensive line.
Vernon Carey was a high school All-American and a college All-American out of Miami-Northwestern. Carey was on the 2001 national championship squad, as well. Before his UM career was over he was a two-time All-BIG EAST selection as well. Carey went on to an NFL career that spanned 121 games and 101 starts all for the hometown Dolphins.
Kelvin Harris was the starting center for the Miami Hurricanes and a three-time national champion (87, 89, 91). Harris teamed with Leon Searcy to win the 1989 and 1991 titles. Harris didn’t win as many awards as some of the others on the list, but he played two seasons in the NFL and toured around the world playing in the World League, CFL and AFL.
Chris Myers came to the ‘Canes from Miami-Palmetto and redshirted for the 2000 season. He was a backup on the 2001 national title team and started at center, guard and tackle for the ‘Canes from 2002-2004. Myers won more awards in the NFL than at Miami where he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection in the league. Myers, a 6th round NFL Draft pick, started 128 games in the NFL and played from 2005-2014.
Brandon Linder from St. Thomas Aquinas is another former Hurricane who made his bones in the NFL rather than in college. Linder was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2013 and a 3rd round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since becoming a Jaguar in 2014, Linder has started in all 54 games he’s played in and signed a $51.7 million dollar contract in 2017 making him the league’s highest paid center in NFL history.
Our final Florida Boy is Joaquin Gonzalez. Gonzalez came to Miami as an undersized tackle prospect during the heart of the Butch Davis recovery era. Gonzalez built himself into a two-time All-American tackle (2000-2001), BCS National Champion (2001) and 7th round NFL Draft pick. Gonzalez played alongside fellow greats in Bryant McKinnie and Brett Romberg while at The U. While in the NFL, Gonzalez started 14 of his 46 games from 2002-2005.
Summary and Poll
OK ‘Canes fans, you’ve read the extensive report on the Miami offensive line history. Now it’s your time to vote on which region has produced the best talent in ‘Canes football history.
Which region has produced the best OL talent in ‘Canes history?
This poll is closed
New Jersey and DC