The history of the Miami Hurricanes football program runs deep with household names and rich tradition. So much so, if someone tried to compile a list of first, second, and third team all-time players, there is still sure to be a significant amount of noteworthy individuals left off.
This is not only true from a Hurricanes fan standpoint, but also true at the national media level as a plethora of Canes are respected across the college football landscape. This list is no different as there are tons of players that could have been acknowledged, it was very hard leaving some names off.
The following rundown was assembled to honor the Hurricanes that are still well-known, but may not be immediately considered as an elite level player at their position, even though they probably should be.
Yes, there are All-Americans on this list, but you will quickly see why when you realize the amount of greats at said position. A school that boasts All-Americans in its history would normally place them as one of the unquestioned greatest players to come through their program.
This isn’t necessarily the case for Miami. Imagine trying to make a list of the five best pass rushers in Hurricanes football history (DE alone), or the top five Canes you would not want to tackle in the open field, or fastest Canes of all time, etc. These categories are certain to be void of remarkable players, which is exactly what happened while making this list.
So here it is, a list of the most underrated players to ever play at The U. Did some on the list surprise you? Is this team good enough to win 10 games and a bowl in the ‘80’s and/or 90’s? Which position group is your favorite? Comment back with who you would put on your all-time underrated Canes team. Have at it Canes fans...
Special thanks to Frank Forte, Kelvin Harris, Scott Patchan, the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame, Ghosts of the Orange Bowl, Hurricanesports.com and a helpful twitter poll for some insight on this piece.
QB - Scott Covington
There have been several quarterbacks in Miami Hurricanes history that have made a name for themselves because of big game performances. Of them, only one played the role of spoiler against an undefeated team that was poised to play in the national championship game had it won its final regular season game. Scott Covington kicks off this list not because of any eye popping stats, not even because he was instrumental in arguably the biggest upset in the history of this storied program. He makes this list because he was the steady quarterback that Miami needed at the time, led the team to an 8-3 (3-2 Big East) regular season record 1998, and a bowl game victory versus the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the Micron PC Bowl - a game in which he was named MVP after a 17-24, 320 yard, two touchdown performance. Miami found itself with a #20 AP ranking to close the year.
Under former offensive coordinator Larry Coker who relied heavily on the run game, the senior quarterback was mainly tasked to manage games. Although the upset over UCLA will be remembered mostly by Edgerrin James’ record setting 299 rushing yard performance, Covington played just as well hitting on 19 of 28 pass attempts for 318 yards, and three touchdowns. The Fresno, California native started only one season at Miami after serving as Ryan Clement’s backup, finishing with 3,862 passing yards and 26 touchdowns (a one season total for some passers) on his career. But one thing he can stake claim to, is being the starting quarterback on the team that announced the Canes were back.
RB - James Stewart
In only two seasons with significant carries at Miami, James Stewart made his mark. Every team looks for a running back with the perfect blend of size, speed, and the ability to power through defenses - Stewart provided exactly that. At 6’1’’ 225, boasting a 4.4 forty yard dash time, the former 100 meter state champion sprinter terrorized defenses on the ground. He totaled 604 yards on a 5.8 yard average, reaching the end zone five times in 1993. The following season saw Stewart rush for 724 yards and eight touchdowns. As a pass catcher, he hauled in 16 catches for 154 yards and one score throughout his career. He makes this list because he was productive while sharing a backfield with Donnell Bennett (143 carries, 1993), Larry Jones (57 carries, 1993; 88 carries, 1994), Danyell Ferguson (18 carries, 1993; 74 carries, 1994) and Alfred Shipman (45 carries, 1994). Imagine what would have been if he was the featured back for two or three complete seasons, the potential was there to be a multiple record holder at UM.
FB - Kyle Cobia
Fullbacks! A huge element in running offenses when teams would run out of the “I”. The position has somewhat disappeared in recent years (unless you’re the New England Patriots), but in 2001 when Miami averaged 204.6 rushing yards per game, Kyle Cobia played extensively behind starter Najeh Davenport. As a backup with a limited role, each time he entered a game, he excelled as both a blocker and a receiver. Don’t let the fact that Cobia totaled only 34 rushing yards, 76 receiving yards, and zero touchdowns during his career, distract you from realizing he was a 6’2” 235 lb. specimen out of Lakeland Senior High School, that was as big as opposing linebackers, and used every inch of his frame to perfection. The efforts by this prototypical fullback get lost in UM lore, and should not.
WR - Horace Copeland
One of the most feared deep threats in Hurricanes history, Horace Copeland simply does not get the recognition he deserves when talking about the all-time great wide receivers to ever dawn “The U” on their helmets. That list is a hard one to crack considering the Hurricanes have been spoiled with talent like Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, Michael Irvin, Lamar Thomas, Andre Johnson, Randall Hill, Eddie Brown, Brian Blades, etc. at the position. Known for his celebratory back flips after scoring touchdowns, the supremely athletic wide receiver out of Maynard Evans High in Orlando (where he set state records in the high jump and and long jump), was part of an intimidating pass offense that featured eventual 1992 Heisman winning quarterback, Gino Torretta.
The dynamic downfield threat boasted a career best 47 receptions for 769 receiving yards in 1992. He ended his career with 84 receptions, 1,424 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. Copeland also started every game in 1991 and 1992, while capturing six 100 yard receiving games in that span. However his signature moment as a Cane will most likely be his 99 yard touchdown catch against Arkansas in a season opening 31-3 win, which still stands as the longest pass play in UM history.
WR - Stanley Shakespeare
Stanley Shakespere, recruited out of Lake Worth Community High School in Palm Beach County by way of Andalusia, Alabama and Auburn, New York before that, was a prototypical, speedy, Miami wide receiver whose quickness and burst earned him playing time as a backup in 1981. Fast forward to 1983 when Shakespeare earned a starting spot as a junior alongside Eddie Brown, he played huge role and was key in Miami’s success during the Hurricanes first championship run. He amassed 452 yards on 34 receptions and hauled in four touchdowns. Shakespeare saw those numbers increase during his final season at Miami as the senior pulled down 38 receptions for 621 yards and five scores. This underrated Cane must be respected as an all-time receiver for the program simply due to his contributions in 1983. Without them, there is no telling if Miami even makes it to the title game.
TE - Willie Smith
Willie Smith may have started the trend at Miami and should probably be considered the Godfather of “Tight End U”. Just think...David Njoku, Christopher Herndon, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Kellen Winslow II, Jeremy Shockey, Daniel “Bubba” Franks, Coleman Bell, Rob Chudzinski, Clive Walford, Brevin Jordan, Syii Tucker, Mundrel Fulcher, Kevin Everett plus numerous others worth noting, and even more forthcoming, owe it all to arguably the most decorated tight end in UM history, Willie Smith. That’s right, perhaps the tight end with the most gaudy stats makes this list as the most underrated to play at Miami. Why?
Take one more look at the names mentioned above. Mackey award winners, national champions, All-Americans, first round NFL draft picks, exlposive/athletic playmakers, potential pro football hall of famers, etc. They are all recognized ahead of the player that ended his playing career with the second most receptions in a season (66, 1984), tenth most receiving yards in a season (852, 1984), and is tied with Phillip Dorsett for first with the most catches in a single game (12, 1984). Oh, and don’t forget to throw in the fact that he was a Consensus All-American in 1985 (the first at the position for Miami), and a national champion, with 117 career receptions, 1,544 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
OT - Matt Patchan
Hailing from Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Matt Patchan arrived to Miami in time to experience the start of a dynasty. After redshirting in 1983, he protected Vinny Testaverde during his Heisman trophy winning season in 1986, as well as Steve Walsh in 1987 when Miami won its second title in four seasons. Considered as Miami’s best blocker, Patchan was also recognized as an Honorable Mention All-American tackle during his senior season. Had it not been for health concerns, Patchan was likely headed to becoming an NFL first round pick. Even still, for a man that blocked for two of Miami’s best quarterbacks, while helping pave the way for running backs like Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith, Warren Williams, and others, Patchan should be recognized as one of the greatest offensive tackles ever at UM.
OG - Nick Chickillo
In recent years, whenever someone brought up the name Chickillo, they were most likely referencing the third generation Cane that is entering his sixth year in the NFL and first with the New Orleans Saints. Rarely is the conversation had when Canes fans reminisce about the glory days of the 1950’s when Nick Chickillo was dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage. Of course the younger “Chick” is the one that is fresher in most Canes fans memories, but his grandfather Nick is the only Chickillo to play at the University of Miami that can brag about being an AP All American (1952), and a standout on both the offensive and defensive lines. A three year starter for Miami who helped navigate former head coach Andy Gustafsson’s teams to a 21-11-1 record throughout his time at UM, this number 71 does not get the proper credit when discussing the greatest lineman to play at Miami.
C - Kelvin Harris
Not many players in program history can say they were able to experience winning not one, not two, but three national championships. However that is exactly what the Fort Myers native did throughout his time at Coral Gables. Kelvin Harris won big under the guidance of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson while quarterbacking the offensive line for Miami’s undefeated 1991 national championship team. It also was a line that helped pave the way to for a Hurricanes offense that averaged 441.3 yards per game, good for ninth in school history. At a position where names like Jim Otto, K.C. Jones and Brett Romberg are likely to be spoken before Harris’, number 54 did plenty to etch his name among the finest to man the center spot.
OG - Sherko Haji-Rasouli
Some programs have affinities for Samoan lineman, the Canes prefer to go north of the border instead. Throughout its history, Miami has been fortunate to feature successful players from Canada on their offensive line. Brett Romberg and Richard Mercier are two that stand out, however it was Toronto native, Sherko Haji-Rasouli that contributed on four of the best offensive lines in Miami history. After red shirting in 1998, he backed up and was able to learn from All Big East, Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly All-American, Richard Mercier in 1999. Haji-Rasouli learned plenty from Mercier, who is considered one of the best guards program history. That unit only gave up 20 sacks all season while averaging more than 400 yards per contest. It also paved the way for the Hurricanes rushing attack to average north of 170 yards a game. In 2000, Haji-Rasouli managed to become a fixture on an offensive line that allowed the Miami offense to manufacture 460.8 yards per game.
2001 showed how dominant he can be as he was paired next to All-American offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez on college football’s best offensive line unit. But it was 2002 when Haji-Rasouli played perhaps his best football. The All Big East first team member totaled 38 pancake blocks at left guard and played an integral role on Miami’s offense, that lit up the score board for a school record 527 points. Although he faced multiple injuries throughout his career, at 6’6” 320+ , Sherko-Haji Rasouli should not be forgotten as one of the best offensive guards in Canes history.
OT - Jason Fox
Much like his offensive tackle counterpart on this list, had it not been for an injury during his senior season, Jason Fox was set to be an early round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft (projected 2nd round pick). Heading into his final season at Miami, Fox was a candidate for the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman and started in each of the 36 games he played in, before finishing his career with 47 starts at tackle. That total was only two starts shy of breaking the school record for starts by an offensive lineman - 48 set by Richard Mercier and Mike Sullivan. Part of the reason Fox was so good for Miami was because of the athleticism that came along with his 6’7’’ frame. Comparable to Hurricanes great Eric Winston, Fox was recruited as a tight end at 248 pounds, and left Miami tipping the scales at 303 pounds NFL combine measurements. Even with a knee injury that required surgery and eventually sidelined him from playing in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl versus the Wisconsin Badgers, Fox graded out at 96 percent, earning All-ACC honors for his play during his senior season.
DE - Javon Nanton
This local product from Miami Springs Senior High School made the most of his opportunity as a former walk-on track athlete. The deadly combination of terrifying speed and sneaky power off the edge, proved to be too much to handle for opposing offensive tackles as Nanton was in the backfield plenty. Standing at 6’3” 241, the underrated Cane burst onto the scene in 2003 with eight sacks, and totaled 25.5 TFL, 17.5 sacks, and forced 6 fumbles in 37 career games. During his time at Miami, Nanton played on defenses that allowed 257.5 ypg, 15.7 ppg (2003), 328.1 ypg, 17 ppg (2004), and 270 ypg, 14.25 ppg (2005). It’s seems as if Miami never lacks for quarterback hunters at this position, but Nanton’s instant productivity in a short time, warrants his name being discussed with the likes of elite Canes pass rushers.
DT - Kareem Brown
Another “made from Dade” defensive lineman that suited up for Miami was former 2006, second team All-ACC defender, Kareem Brown. Brown, who took over for the departed Orien Harris in 2006, only started for one season at UM. His senior campaign was his best for Miami as he led the team with 11 sacks from the defensive tackle position (9.5 career sacks entering the year). Brown was one of those players that just needed more reps to show why he was highly coveted out of American Senior High. The former #1 defensive lineman in Florida decided to stay home rather than take his talents to Florida, LSU, or Oklahoma among others, and is as underrated as they come from the DT position.
DT - Matt Walters
After being one of 15 players to redshirt from the 1998 signing class, Matt Walters became a two-year starter at defensive tackle, and was a good one. Walters played with a motor that every coach wants from their defensive linemen, and he was an underrated athlete (evidenced by his 4.9 speed and 30 rep bench at the ‘03 combine) with sound technique. According to his player profile on Hurricanesports.com, coaches deemed him as the best defensive lineman on the team after starting 13 games, collecting 64 tackles (seven for loss), 19 QBH, and five sacks during his senior season in 2002.
Considering how the Melbourne product out of Eau Gallie High School played on a line that included fellow DT William Joseph, DE’s Jerome McDougle, and Jamaal Green during his senior year, that is quite the compliment. Keep in mind, he was being pushed hard by second stringer, and likely NFL hall of fame inductee, Vince Wilfork. Walters increased his production in every statistical categories during his time at Miami, finishing his career with 186 tackles (24 for loss), 49 QBH, and 13 sacks in 48 games played that included 27 starts. Walters’ most memorable play as Cane, may very well be the play that sealed the fate for the Boston College Eagles in 2001 at Chestnut Hill.
DE- Trent Harris
“Toolbox” Trent Harris has to have one of the best nicknames in UM history - simply put he had every tool at his disposal. Effective against the run and the pass, Trent was part of a lethal defensive line rotation that included Joe Jackson, Chad Thomas, Demetrius Jackson, and Jonathan Garvin during his senior year. Every time his number was called, Harris delivered and he seemed to get better with each passing game of his career. Playing with speed, leverage, great technique, a superb motor, and the ability to get off blocks, Trent amassed a team leading 8.5 sacks his senior year to go along with 10.5 TFL. For his career, he totaled 23.5 sacks, 37 TFL, and three fumble recoveries, garnering 3rd team ALL ACC honors in his final season as a Cane. This may be the ultimate underrated Cane.
LB - Maurice Crum Sr.
Yes, another former Consensus All-American has found his way on to the list of most underrated Canes team of all time. Though if we’re being honest, at a position where you have names like Ray Lewis, Dan Morgan Jonathan Vilma, DJ Williams, Michael Barrow, Jessie Armstead, Darrin Smith, George Mira Jr, and countless others, Maurice Crum Sr. almost always is brought up after those previously mentioned. And he’s an All-American! It would have been ideal to sign his son who eventually pledged to play football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but Maurice Sr. churned out a great career as a Cane. He was named a First-team All-American by The Associated Press and was a finalist for the 1990 Butkus Award. Crum also led the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons (1988, ‘89, ‘90) and finished his UM career with 354 stops, to go along with two championship rings. Those career numbers are good enough to stack up against the best to ever play linebacker at Miami.
LB - Jay Brophy
Another All American linebacker that is often left out of the “greatest linebackers to dawn The U” conversation, is Jay Brophy. There is only one way to describe Brophy, and it can be done in two words... F-O-O-T-B-A-L-L P-L-A-Y-E-R. Although the below picture is a great action shot, his black and white head shot is as intimidating (Google it, the sideburns are epic). Brophy was just mean, and he played with reckless abandon. Consider the following and it is easy to see why he makes this list - 1983 All-American by the Football News and 308 tackles throughout his career (135 in 1982 is tied for ninth in program history with George Mira, Jr. and 133 tackles in 1983 led the team). That production is why many considered him to be a leader on Miami’s defense that helped the Hurricanes claim their first ever national championship in 1983. The Akron, Ohio native was recently named head football coach at Manchester High in New Franklin, Ohio. Put some more respect on Brophy’s name.
LB - Nate Webster
Of all the great players from Miami Northwestern Senior High School that brought their talents to the University of Miami, Nate Webster may be one of the best. The 1999 Miami Hurricanes boasted the 16th best total defense in the nation and Webster was one of the leaders on that side of the ball. In just 22 collegiate starts, he registered 301 tackles, 14 TFL, and seven sacks, while being named All-Big East twice. Webster’s most impressive stat is perhaps the four interceptions he recorded during his junior season, which tied for the team lead with cornerback Mike Rumph. He also is tied for third in school history, with Dan Morgan for most tackles in a season - 150 in 1999.
Webster’s dominating style was on full display during his last game as a Hurricane when he was awarded MVP honors in the 2000 Gator Bowl, after a 14 tackle performance. Averaging 40.7 points per game, Miami shut down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets second ranked offense, by limiting them to 13 points. Heisman runner up and Davey O’Brien award winner, Joe Hamilton was a non factor. If Nate Webster would have returned for his senior year in 2000, Miami would have enjoyed one of the nations finest linebacking trios with Dan Morgan manning the weakside spot, and Chris Campbell handling the strongside. All in all, this is a name Canes fans need to bring up with the greatest linebackers to play at UM.
CB - Earl Little
A physical, gritty cornerback that made his bones by playing hard-nosed, Miami Hurricanes football, Earl Little was part of a young 1994 Hurricanes squad that was not supposed to make a championship game appearance, but did anyway. The North Miami Senior High School alum played on a defense highlighted by future NFL hall of famers Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp in front of him, but still managed to pull down six interceptions during his four year career.
CB - Tracy Howard
Had it not been for the ineptitude of the coaching staff during the Al Golden regime, players such as Anthony Chickillo, Tyriq McCord, Tracy Howard and others, may have ended their college careers as elite defenders. Tracy Howard excelled in bump and run coverage as the nations top rated cornerback coming out of Miramar Senior High School, but was severely misused playing so far off opposing receivers that it was no wonder Miami was the laughing stock of the nation for five years under Golden. Despite the conditions, Howard made the most of his opportunity but there is no doubt that Miami never got all it could out of the 5-star talent.
His best season came as a sophomore in 2013 when he intercepted four passes returning one for a touchdown, brought down ball carriers 38 times, earned one TFL, forced one fumble, and deflected one pass. His career concluded with 104 tackles, five INT’s, 10 passes defensed, two FF, and one TFL. Howard was one of countless players to come to Miami from 2010-15 that made many wonder “What would his career have looked like if he signed with an SEC school?” Or maybe not even an SEC school, just a school that played actual defense and schemed properly.
S - Maurice Sikes
“Man, Sean stole so many interceptions from me...” is one line I will never forget. Mo Sikes was my very first guest on Hurricane Warning back in 2017 when he dropped by WVUM studios for a segment, and what a segment it was. The former national championship winning safety, now Coral Gables Police Department Motors Sargeant, expressed how if not for Sean swooping in out of nowhere several times, that he would have more interceptions than the six he is credited for on his career. Nonetheless, he was still an important part of Miami’s dominating secondary that allowed 119.7 passing ypg in 2002, as he intercepted 3 passes, returning two for touchdowns which led the Big East. He also was named to the all conference team as a junior that year. During his senior season in ‘03, he was part of a secondary that allowed 143.5 passing ypg (2nd nationally) and named second team All Big East. Sikes’ 97 yard pick six at “The Swamp” in 2002 which silenced the Gators faithful, in a scrimmage that Miami dominated 41-16, will go down as his most memorable play as a Hurricane.
S - Jaquan Johnson
Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, Bennie Blades, Kenny Phillips, Brandon Meriweather, Fred Marion, Darryl Williams, Super Bowl winners, first round draft picks, top 10 draft picks, consensus All-Americans, Jim Thorpe award winners, NFL Hall of Famers, and a 3-star athlete that Rivals labeled coming out of high school. Jaquan Johnson was SO good throughout his four years at The U, that he undeniably had a better career than that of 5-star safety, Derwin James. Both were part of the 2015 recruiting class, and even though James only played three years Florida State, Johnson still would have had a better career statistically if you subtract his best year at Miami. The Miami Killian Senior High School alum broke out in 2017 when he forced three fumbles (recovering two), intercepted opposing quarterbacks four times while returning one for a score, and tackled ball carriers 96 times as three of them came for losses. Johnson started every game he played in as an upperclassman and was the unquestionable leader in Miami’s secondary.
His leadership showed as his halftime locker room outburst, sparked a ferocious comeback when Miami rallied to beat FSU in 2018 at Hard Rock stadium. During Johnson's final season, the Miami secondary surrendered the fewest yards in the nation allowing 1,690 (140.8 ypg) through the air. The underrated safety tied with Michael Jackson for the team lead in interceptions in 2017 as the duo intercepted four passes. Johnson is also tied for eighth in school history intercepting a pass in three consecutive games. The all-time leader is Bennie Blades intercepting a pass in five games straight.
K - Andy Crosland
Andy Crosland missed more than his fair share of big kicks for Miami, but he also connected on some big ones as well. One would think that a kicker that converted on 68.3% of his attempts during his career would not sniff an all time underrated list. However Crosland makes it because he ranks sixth on Miami’s all time scoring list for kickers with 292 points, eighth with 44 career FGM, third with 163 PAT’s made, and is tied for third all time in school history with nine XPM in a game versus East Tennessee State in 1998. In addition to his kicking duties, Crosland also punted for four years at Miami averaging 39.6 yards per punt.
P - Jeff Feagles
This was tough simply because, who’s ever heard of an underrated punter? Then there’s this - if you were to ask the average Canes fan who the best punter in school history is, they’d likely say Jeff Feagles. Still and all, Feagles isn’t mentioned much in any of Miami’s all-time punting statistical categories. His career average of 40.8 yards per punt is not even good for top ten in school history. However, his impressive hang time only allowed opponents to return 12 of 34 punts during Miami’s 1987 championship season. A record he does hold is the school record for highest punting average in a bowl game, when he kicked for an average of 46 yards versus Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
KR - Stacy Coley
More known for his receiving prowess than his kick return ability, Stacy Coley is not one of the top kick returners in program history, yet is still one of the most productive - impressive when you consider the all-time kick returners in Hurricanes have featured. Coley totaled the fifth and sixth most kick return yards ever in a season with 570 (2013), and 541 yards (2014). He also ranks third in career kick return yards with 1,142 on 46 returns (24.8 avg.).
PR - Braxton Berrios
As a punt returner, Braxton Berrios took a lot of unwarranted criticism from impatient Hurricanes fans. Upon further review, it can be chalked up to many being spoiled with names like Kevin Williams, Roscoe Parrish, Phillip Buchanon, Devin Hester, Duke Johnson etc. that wowed them with electrifying returns almost every week. Although “Brax” had the ability to break one at any given moment, he was a smart returner that did not risk fumbles or placing his team in a precarious position offensively. Of the 47 punts he fielded in his career, only one was returned for a score (2016), and he averaged 10.4 yds per return. His career best return average came as a senior when he returned punts at 15.9 yard clip, and was named to the All-ACC team as an honorable mention. Further proof that Berrios excels as a punt returner lies at the next level. In 2019 he was the seventh best punt returner in the NFL with 240 punt return yards, and ranked 4th with an 11.4 punt return average.