Miami Football: Power Ranking the Top 10 QBs in Hurricanes History

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2014

Ken Dorsey won a national championship and set many school records, but is that enough for the top spot?
Ken Dorsey won a national championship and set many school records, but is that enough for the top spot?Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

The 2014 Miami Hurricanes will showcase a new starting quarterback, and redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen has an opportunity to become a four-year starter at "The U."

Of course, he must beat out Ryan Williams this season and hold off Brad Kaaya for three years for that to happen, but that's a different story for another day.

Consequently, after being tabbed the starter, Olsen would have an excellent chance at becoming the best statistical quarterback in Miami history. But based on the numbers and overall team impact, who actually is the top gunslinger for the Hurricanes?

The grading system takes into account five criteria, giving players 10 points for the top performance down to a single point for the lowest mark. These include:

  • Passing Yards Per Game
  • Touchdown-Interception Ratio
  • Percentage of Team's Total Offense While a Starter
  • Big-Game Performance
  • Overall Team Impact (win-loss record, awards, bowl wins, etc.)

To be eligible, the post-1960s quarterback must have been the top primary starter for at least two seasons. Therefore, players like Scott Covington and Kenny Kelly will not be included.

With some categories—such as big-game performance and overall team impact—the grading can certainly be a bit subjective. There is no perfect grading scale on how to rank quarterbacks, but it doesn't mean we can't try.

Notes: Passing yards per game takes into account career games which the quarterback did not start. Frank Costa (1991-94) was not the primary starter for two full seasons.

Quarterbacks Who Qualify
NAMEYEARSCOMP %YARDSTDINT
George Mira, Sr.'61-'6349.15,0483038
Bill Miller'61, '65-'6749.62,3281724
David Olivo'66-'6850.82,8122132
Kelly Cochrane'69-'7146.23,2411842
Ed Carney'72-'7244.62,057918
Kary Baker'73-'7544.02,216834
E.J. Baker'75-'7845.81,422916
Jim Kelly'79-'8255.65,2283328
Bernie Kosar'83-'8462.35,9714029
Vinny Testaverde'82, '84-'8661.36,0584825
Steve Walsh'86-'8859.45,3694819
Craig Erickson'87-'9055.96,0564622
Gino Torretta'89-'9256.07,6904724
Ryan Clement'94-'9759.36,0043629
Ken Dorsey'99-'0257.99,5658628
Brock Berlin'03-'0458.05,0993423
Kyle Wright'04-'0759.25,8053831
Jacory Harris'08-'1160.18,8267048
Stephen Morris'10-'1357.77,8964930
HurricaneSports.com and Sports-Reference.com

 

Statistics

It's fair to say the pre-Jim Kelly quarterbacks hadn't quite mastered the art of the forward pass. Not to worry, though, they won't be stealing many points from the well-known Miami quarterbacks.

Dorsey holds a clear advantage in the amount of yardage and touchdowns while, considering he started 40 games, throwing so few interceptions.

Harris and Morris rose up the school record books, but Testaverde, Walsh, Erickson and Torretta were much more efficient. The two recent Miami quarterbacks have the second- and third-most touchdowns, but their respective TD-INT ratios will allow those four gunslingers to take their rightful places above Harris and Morris.

Kelly, Kosar, Clement, Berlin and Wright have comparable statistics, throwing somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 yards, 33 to 38 touchdowns and 23 to 31 interceptions.

But that fact proves box-score scouting is a very, very dangerous thing to do, because Wright—as will be discussed later—is in a category of his own. And it's not necessarily a good one.

 

Big-Game Performance

Vinny Testaverde won 88 percent of his games, but his handful of losses were ugly.
Vinny Testaverde won 88 percent of his games, but his handful of losses were ugly.Joe Skipper/Associated Press

Five different quarterbacks won national championships while at The U, four were named national award winners and two were recipients of the Heisman Trophy.

Kelly led the 'Canes through legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger's program-building seasons, winning the 1981 Peach Bowl. Kelly was 6-4 against ranked teams and defeated Top 15 Florida State teams in consecutive years.

As a redshirt freshman, Kosar guided Miami to a national championship. A lackluster 1984 campaign hurts him in this department, but Kosar still managed a 6-4 record when matching up with ranked squads.

Testaverde threw five interceptions during the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, which cost the quarterback a chance at a national title. The year prior, the second-ranked Hurricanes were destroyed by Tennessee 35-7 in the Sugar Bowl, and No. 5 Florida had knocked off Miami 35-23 earlier that season.

Walsh finished a remarkable 23-1 at Miami, winning 11 of 12 games against ranked teams—and his lone defeat could have been the result of an uncalled first down.

Steve Walsh was one blown call away from being 24-0 at Miami.
Steve Walsh was one blown call away from being 24-0 at Miami.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Leading the 'Canes to three wins against schools in the Top Three of the AP poll, Erickson played reasonably well in important games. He tossed three touchdowns during the 1989 national championship win over Alabama, capping a 29-touchdown season.

Overall, Torretta was fantastic statistically, but his big-game performances during his Heisman-winning campaign were less than stellar. Torretta faced five ranked teams in 1992, completing just 47.6 percent of his attempts, throwing four touchdowns to eight interceptions.

Under Clement, Miami defeated Virginia in the 1996 Carquest Bowl, but he was—to be blunt—awful against ranked opponents, dropping eight of 11 contests against such teams.

The only two losses in Dorsey's career came against No. 15 Washington in 2000 and No. 2 Ohio State in 2002. Other than that, he dismantled 12 ranked opponents, including eight combined wins over Florida State, Virginia Tech and Florida.

Kyle Wright didn't quite live up to his 5-star billing.
Kyle Wright didn't quite live up to his 5-star billing.Doug Benc/Getty Images

Wright, who was heralded as the No. 5 overall prospect in the 2003 class according to Rivals, was...hahahahaha, pardon my laughter...3-10 against ranked teams.

But when Wright lost, he did it big. His Miami teams lost to Virginia by 48, Oklahoma by 38, LSU by 37, Virginia Tech by 30 and Louisville by 24.

Harris had a promising sophomore campaign, beating three ranked teams in four games. But he otherwise struggled against top competition, falling in four of six contests. Harris appeared in three bowl games from 2008-2010, suffering a loss in each one before a 6-6 senior campaign ended his collegiate career.

Beyond the technicality of defeating No. 12 Florida last year, Morris never beat a ranked opponent and was off-target during his lone bowl outing.

 

Team Impact

As a freshman, Bernie Kosar led the 'Canes to a national title.
As a freshman, Bernie Kosar led the 'Canes to a national title.Anonymous/Associated Press

George Mira Sr. was named the inaugural Jack Harding Team MVP award winner in 1963, and he held the career mark for passing touchdowns upon graduation.

Future NFL star Kelly was the first in a line of talented quarterbacks, and he was the 1981 Team MVP. Miami posted an 18-5 record during Kelly's sophomore and junior seasons, but an injury limited his senior year.

Kosar led the program to its first-ever national championship in 1983, lifting the 'Canes to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for the first time as well. The Ohio native was also the 1984 Team MVP, and Miami was 19-6 with Kosar under center.

The first Miami player to win the Heisman Trophy, Testaverde took home the award in 1986 while winning both the Maxwell Award and Davey O'Brien Award, too. Named the Team MVP in 1985 and 1986, Testaverde was 21-3 during his final two seasons with the Hurricanes—but he underperformed against each highly ranked team.

Testaverde's successor Steve Walsh followed in his footsteps, winning the Team MVP twice (1987, 1988). But Walsh did something Testaverde could not complete, leading Miami to the 1987 national championship.

Erickson was also 21-3 over his two seasons, winning the 1989 national championship and 1990 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He also quarterbacked the infamous 46-3 rout of Texas in the 1991 Cotton Bowl, from which the "Miami Rule" emerged.

Easily the most decorated player, Torretta won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Team MVP in 1992. Of course, his national championship season was in 1991, and it's safe to assume he prefers the '91 campaign to the following year.

Clement navigated the Hurricanes through the mid-90s stretch of NCAA sanctions, winning 22 of 34 games. He was simply decent, which was basically the logical expectation given the circumstance.

Fan-favorite Ken Dorsey was a two-time Team MVP (2001, 2002), and he won the 2001 Maxwell Award en route to a national championship. Dorsey finished his illustrious Miami career with a 38-2 record, assisting in a Gator Bowl victory, winning a Sugar Bowl and appearing in two national titles.

A transfer from Florida, Brock Berlin was named the 2004 Team MVP, and he quarterbacked the Hurricanes to Orange Bowl and Peach Bowl victories. Berlin had his fair share of fantastic throws, including the accompanying dime and equally amazing catch by Kellen Winslow Jr.

At one point, Wright was benched in favor of Kirby Freeman, which summarizes the majority of his career.

During his first season as a full-time starter, Harris guided the Hurricanes to a 9-4 record. However, the combination of floated passes and head-scratching decisions resulted in an 11-9 finish to his time at Miami.

Under offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, Morris looked like a franchise quarterback. Once Fisch bolted for the NFL, Morris regressed far beyond what was anticipated, and he closed an 18-11 career in disappointing fashion.

 

Final Verdict

Power Ranking Greatest Miami QBs
RankTD-INTYDS perTotal Off.Big-GameImpactOverall
10. Berlin3413314
9. Kelly0034815
8. Harris5272117
7. Morris4681221
6. Erickson8528629
5. Kosar2967731
4. Testaverde6895533
T2. Torretta710106437
T2. Walsh935101037
1. Dorsey10749939
Bleacher Report

Note: Clement and Wright both scored a single point—Clement in the TD-INT ratio department, and Wright in the yards per game category.

Kelly was statistically forgettable, but the timing of his career along with big-game performances make him a key quarterback at Miami. Based on the criteria, Kelly was jumped by Harris at eighth and Morris at seventh, which is certainly debatable.

From sixth to fourth, the rankings seem accurate. Erickson slides in eight points ahead of Morris, safely claiming the sixth spot. Ahead of Erickson and trailing Testaverde, Kosar is in a respectable position as well.

Due to Walsh's big-game performance and Torretta's prolific stats, the duo tied for second place. Between the two, they both won a national title, whereas Walsh was consistent and Torretta earned the hardware. Which is more important?

And it comes as no surprise that Ken Dorsey is the greatest quarterback who ever donned the orange and green. Dorsey was surrounded by what was perhaps the greatest defense in college football history, but he was absolutely dominant on the field.

 

I'm sure we'll all agree on each inclusion and the respective player's placement, but let me know how you feel in the comments section below.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.