Earlier this week, a question was posed by a Canes account on Twitter, asking who was the best running back ever to play at Miami. Like most positions, the Hurricanes have had an abundance of great RB’s come through the program, so the answers to the question featured several classic players. Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Duke Johnson, all respectable answers and great running backs who wore the orange and green.
In my opinion however, Willis McGahee gets the nod.
Just during the 2002 season, McGahee cemented himself as a Hurricanes legend, turning in the greatest single-year performance by a running back in Miami history. McGahee set schools record for rushing yards in a season (1,753) and rushing touchdowns (28), helping the Canes reach their second straight national championship game.
Willis McGahee was an absolute animal at Miami pic.twitter.com/BdHJWbYBBW— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) July 19, 2020
Portis had great moves and was shifty, Johnson had the speed and was a home-run threat, Gore had the size, McGahee had it all. A running back who possessed all the physical gifts you could think of, #2 was unstoppable when he was on the field.
100 days until Canes Football.— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) May 28, 2020
In 2002, Willis McGahee set the Miami season record with 10 100-yard rushing games. Attached are clips from every one of those games. McGahee’s 2002 is in the argument for the best season by any player in the history of the program.#CanesCountdown pic.twitter.com/6uapnjsABv
Standing 6-1 and weighing 225 pounds at Miami, McGahee had the size and strength to break tackles at will, but also clocked a 4.28 40-yard dash time. 4.28 40-YARD DASH. It’s no wonder Bucky Brooks from NFL.com ranked McGahee as the #6 best running back he’s ever scouted.
Pre-knee injury Willis McGahee was one of the best college running backs we’d ever seen. pic.twitter.com/rh9X4l683T— Drew Comments (@sjs856) June 27, 2020
Finishing 4th in the 2002 Heisman Trophy race, McGahee had himself a season that we probably won't ever see again from a Canes running back. Against Virginia Tech, McGahee torched the Hokies defense for a school record 6 touchdowns in the Canes 56-45 victory. What still baffles me about that performance, he scored his 6th TD in the 3rd quarter, and could've had even more.
To me, this debate is between McGahee and Edgerrin James, both were equally incredible during their time at Miami. With Willis, 2002 was really the only full season we got to see him play. He was the backup to Portis on the 2001 championship team, so he was only used sparingly.
Still, even the limited playing time in college, McGahee tops my list for running backs at The U.
Who’s your favorite Canes running back?