Hurricanes All-Time Defensive Unit

Ricky FrechCorrespondent INovember 8, 2011

Hurricanes All-Time Defensive Unit

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    The Miami Hurricanes are one of the most successful and storied football programs in NCAA history and have been blessed to have some of the best defensive players to ever play the game.

    When looking through the many outstanding players that have played for the "U," it's difficult to decide which players should make Miami's all-time defensive unit, simply because there are so many deserving players.

    Which players made the Hurricanes' all-time defensive unit? Read on to find out.

Defensive End: Ted Hendricks

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    Runner-up: Danny Stubbs

    Ted Hendricks is simply a college football legend.

    Standing tall at 6'7", Hendricks dwarfed opposing players and used that size to become a two-time All-American in 1967 and 1968. In 1968 he also finished fifth in Heisman voting as he dominated every team Miami faced.

    Hendricks has the most tackles by a defensive lineman in the history of Miami's program with 327 and he also excelled at forcing turnovers through both forced fumbles and interceptions.

    "The Mad Stork" would go on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, proving his college success wasn't a fluke. His height was a major reason he was able to block 25 kicks in the NFL (an unofficial record) and snag 26 career interceptions.

Defensive End: Jerome McDougle

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    Runner-up: Kenard Lang

    Jerome McDougle was a huge part of the Miami squad that won the school's fifth national championship in 2001. 

    Sometimes called the best team in college football history, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were absolutely dominant in every aspect of the game. In fact, McDougle is definitely not the only player from that team that makes this list.

    McDougle didn't have the same success in the pros as others on this list, but his dominance in college can't be ignored. In 2001 he had seven sacks, 48 quarterback hits, four total turnovers and 59 tackles.

    The next year wasn't quite as prolific, but he did manage to sack the quarterback seven more times in 2002 before being drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Defensive Tackle: Warren Sapp

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    Runner-up: Russell Maryland

    With respect to Ndamukong Suh, Warren Sapp might be the best defensive tackle to ever play the college game.

    His list of accolades is ridiculous. He's a two-time All-American, the 1994 Lomardi Award winner, the 1994 Nagurski Trophy winner and was named the Defensive Player of the Year by Football Writers Association of America.

    Obviously he would go on to become one of the best defensive tackles in the history of the NFL after he finished his amazing collegiate career.

    The six-time All-Pro was selected as the 1999 Defensive Player of the Year and will surely be elected to the Hall of Fame once he's eligible. 

Defensive Tackle: Jerome Brown

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    Runners-up: Cortez Kennedy, Vince Wilfork

    Jerome Brown was one bad dude when he played for the "U."

    In 1987, Brown was the leader of Miami's infamous walkout during a dinner with the Hurricane's national title opponents, the Penn State Nittany Lions. Miami would lose that game, but Brown cemented his place as the baddest man in college football.

    He had a promising NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles, but it was cut short when he was involved in a car accident that took his life.

    Brown left this world too soon, but, in his short time with us, he was able to prove himself as a great defensive tackle, as his two All-Pro selections show.

Middle Linebacker: Ray Lewis

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    Runners-up: Dan Morgan, Jon Vilma, Michael Barrow

    The "U' is absolutely loaded when it comes to the middle linebacker position. However, there really wasn't any question when deciding who would take this spot on the squad.

    Ray Lewis is possibly the best middle linebacker in the history of the game. The two-time All-American was a destructive force during his entire college career.

    He only started five games his freshman year, but he still totaled 81 tackles and two sacks. His sophomore season saw him post 153 tackles, two sacks and an interception. He ended his career with a 160 tackle, two sack and two interception junior season that saw him finish as the runner-up to the Butkus award.

    Lewis would follow up his great college career with an even better pro career. The 10-time All-Pro, 12-time Pro Bowler and two-time Defensive Player of the Year might go down as the best linebacker ever.

    At the very least, he's a Hall of Fame lock as soon as he decides to quit dominating young quarterbacks.

Outside Linebacker: Jessie Armstead

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    Runner-up: Darrin Smith

    Jessie Armstead was a huge part of the Hurricanes' championship defenses in 1989 and 1991. He, along with Darrin Smith and Michael Barrow, formed the famed "Bermuda Triangle" of linebackers.

    Speaking of Darrin Smith, it was a very difficult decision as to which of these two great players would take this spot. In the end, I gave it to Armstead because of his superior pro career.

    Armstead was a five-time Pro Bowler and a four-time All-Pro selection in his 11-year career, which is quite impressive for an eighth-round draft pick.

    Armstead tore his ACL in his final year of college football and that dropped him like a rock in the 1993 NFL draft. However, he would prove all of those scouts wrong with his excellent play during his pro career.

Outside Linebacker: D.J. Williams

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    Runners-up: Jon Beason, Maurice Crum

    D.J. Williams had trouble getting playing time early in his college career because of all the outstanding linebackers Miami had in front of him.

    However, when he finally made his way into the starting lineup he became one of the best linebackers in the nation. He was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award in his junior and senior years along with Jonathon Vilma.

    Williams was a great outside pass-rusher during his time at the "U." His junior year he tallied four sacks and he led the team with six during his senior year.

    Williams has a roller coaster-like professional career. He's put up solid statistics, but has had some trouble with the law. That said, he still has the talent to become a solid player in the NFL. 

Cornerback: Antrel Rolle

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    Runner-up: Ryan McNeil

    Antrel Rolle was one of the best cover corners in the nation during his time at Miami. His play against some of the best receivers in college football was instrumental to the Hurricanes' success in the early 2000s.

    Rolle shut down guys like Larry Fitzgerald (three catches for 26 yards) and Calvin Johnson (two catches for 10 yards) in route to his All-American career. He may not have intercepted a ton of passes while at Miami, but that's largely because receivers couldn't get open enough for quarterbacks to risk throwing the ball his way.

    Rolle's pro career began with some injury troubles, but he's since transformed himself into one of the league's better defensive backs. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010, and his play continues to improve every year.

Cornerback: Phillip Buchanon

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    Runner-up: Duane Starks

    Phillip Buchanon wasn't just a great cornerback while at Miami, he was also an outstanding punt returner. 

    For his career he had 88 tackles, seven interceptions and two punt return touchdowns. This All-American and Mosi Tatupu Award finalist was excellent in every aspect of the game. 

    Buchanon's ability to cover receivers and return punts equally well led the Oakland Raiders to draft him 15th overall in 2002. He's had a solid NFL career since then, but hasn't been able to stick with one team long enough to truly reach his potential.

Safety: Ed Reed

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    Runners-up: Darryl Williams, Fred Marion, Kenny Phillips

    The Miami Hurricanes are loaded at the middle linebacker spot, but they might be even better at the safety positions. That said, there's one safety that truly stands above all others, Ed Reed.

    Reed was a three-time consensus All-American and owner of many Miami records. 2001 was Reed's best season, as he picked off nine passes for 209 yards (a school record) and three touchdowns. Over his career he had 21 interceptions for 389 yards and five touchdowns, all of which are school records.

    His legend grew even bigger when he made his way to the NFL. Teaming with fellow "U" alum Ray Lewis in Baltimore, Reed helped put together one of the NFL's best defenses.

    Reed has been selected to seven Pro Bowl squads, is also a seven-time All-Pro selection and was 2004's Defensive Player of the Year. Scarily enough, even at 33 years old, it doesn't look like Reed is going to slow down anytime soon.

    However, when he finally does, you can rest assured that the Hall of Fame will come knocking for this great Hurricane. 

Safety: Sean Taylor

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    Runners-up: Bennie Blades, Brandon Meriweather

    Technically, Sean Taylor and Ed Reed played the same position in college and this spot should probably go to Bennie Blades, who actually played strong safety during his career. However, I simply couldn't pass up Taylor's tremendous talent.

    Taylor's 2003 campaign is one of the most dominant performances by a Hurricane player ever. He led the nation with 10 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, and added 77 tackles. His play against top receivers like Larry Fitzgerald (two catches for 13 yards against Taylor) was instrumental in Miami's success. He was rewarded for his fine play with an All-American selection and was named a finalist for the Thorpe Award. 

    Taylor's insane athleticism, vicious hits and ball-hawking skills made him into a fan favorite in Miami and that support followed him as he moved onto a professional career with the Washington Redskins.

    Taylor had a great start to his pro career but also saw himself battling criminal troubles until the 2007 season when he had seemingly turned his life around for his daughter. However, Taylor was shot in the leg during that season and we will never get to truly know how great of a player and man he would've become.

    He was taken from this world too early, but those of us who saw him play before his death know that Sean Taylor was one of the truly great players to come from the "U."