Miami Football: Power Ranking the Best Running Backs in Hurricanes History

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2013

Miami Football: Power Ranking the Best Running Backs in Hurricanes History

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    With five national championship seasons and a few more title-contending teams, the University of Miami has boasted a collection of talented running backs throughout its football history.

    Though only a handful of backs have been chosen as first-team All-Americans, several players moved on to the professional ranks and excelled there as well.

    However, this ranking is based on the respective players’ overall collegiate performances and not a combination of eventual NFL careers.

    How would you rank them? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

    Stats courtesy of

Honorable Mention: Cleveland Gary (1985-1988)

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    Cleveland Gary was a first-team All-American in 1988 and a member of the 1987 national championship team.

    In 1988, he led the Hurricanes with 480 rushing yards and caught 57 passes out of the backfield.

    Gary finished his collegiate career with 650 rushing yards, scoring 12 touchdowns and adding 67 receptions for 794 yards and six trips to the end zone.

15. Don Bosseler (1953-1956)

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    A captain of the 1956 team, Don Bosseler was a first-team All-American leading the squad to an 8-1-1 record and No. 6 national ranking. It was the best season Miami had until the Hurricanes won a national championship in 1983.

    Bosseler finished his career with 1,652 rushing yards—the second-most in school history at the time according to Hurricane Sports.

    He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990 after entering the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 1970.

14. Jim Dooley (1949-1951)

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    Jim Dooley intercepted 17 passes while at Miami and became the second Hurricane ever to earn All-American honors after his 10-pick season in 1951.

    But he was technically a running back, too, so Dooley poses an interesting predicament as to where he belongs on the list.

    Though, undoubtedly, most productive as a defensive back, Dooley finished his offensive career with a school-record 1,029 rushing yards to complement 250 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns.

13. Lamar Miller (2010-2011)

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    Lamar Miller made a solid contribution as a freshman, gaining 646 yards on the ground, but his sophomore season was definitely a breakout year.

    The Killian High School product racked up 1,272 yards in 2011—the third-most in school history—and earned second-team All-ACC honors.

    Miller finished his Miami career with 1,918 rushing yards and 15 scores, a 25.1 kick-return average, including one touchdown and 28 receptions for 181 yards with another trip to the end zone.

12. Javarris James (2006-2009)

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    Arguably a tad underrated, Javarris James was a workhorse for the ‘Canes.

    Though James’ freshman campaign was his best season, he was a dependable back throughout his four seasons at Miami.

    James ranks seventh on the career yards list with 2,162 and is tied for ninth with 18 career touchdowns.

    He added 55 receptions for 503 yards and one touchdown to finish with 2,665 yards from scrimmage.

11. Frank Gore (2001-2004)

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    Friendly reminder: Exclusively focused on college careers.

    Frank Gore excelled as a true freshman, gaining 562 yards with a video game-like 9.10 yards per attempt in Miami’s national championship 2001 season.

    After a knee injury sidelined him during the 2002 campaign, Gore had two more strong years for the Hurricanes finishing with the ninth-most rushing yards (1,975) in school history.

    Gore scored 17 touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 223 yards throughout three seasons of work in Coral Gables.

10. Melvin Bratton (1984-1987)

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    Melvin Bratton was not afraid to talk trash, and he called Oklahoma Sooners’ linebacker Brian Bosworth in the middle of the night, just hours before a game between the two powerhouses.

    Bratton told Bosworth, "Boz, this is Mel Bratton and Alonzo Highsmith giving you your wake-up call. We're going to kick your [butt] at high noon, so you better be there."

    Well, 1,435 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns—the fifth-most in school history—and 1,186 receiving yards and seven scores later, Bratton proved he was not afraid of anyone on the field either.

    Bratton was a member of 1987 national championship team and was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

9. Chuck Foreman (1970-1972)

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    Chuck Foreman was a first-team All-American and the team MVP in 1972.

    Foreman had the most rushing yards on the team in both 1971 and 1972 and racked up 1,631 career rushing yards as well as catching 56 passes for 732 yards.

    He has the sixth-most, single-season all-purpose yards (1,555) and the fifth-most in a career with 3,365.

8. Stephen McGuire (1989-1992)

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    Stephen McGuire did not dominate, but he put together a great career at the University of Miami.

    Despite never running for more than 621 yards in a season, McGuire’s 1,953 career yards is the 10th-best in school history. To be fair, he led the team’s ground attack in 1990 and 1991.

    But he does hold an impressive record—yeah, that touchdown one. McGuire found the end zone 35 times while with the ‘Canes.

    McGuire was a key offensive contributor during two (1989 and 1991) of Miami’s five national championships.

7. Graig Cooper (2007-2010)

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    Graig Cooper was a reliable back, despite Miami, as a team, being a very inconsistent squad.

    Cooper led the Hurricanes’ ground attack in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and finished his career with 2,383 yards on an impressive 5.12 yards per carry.

    He scored in a variety of ways while at "The U,"collecting 13 rushing, three receiving and one pass and punt return touchdown.

    Cooper’s 3,864 all-purpose yards ranks fourth on Miami’s all-time list.

6. Willis McGahee (2001-2002)

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    Willis McGahee had the best statistical year in Miami Hurricanes’ history, and it simply is not debatable.

    In his All-American 2002 season, McGahee ran for 1,753 yards (6.22 yards per carry), had 10 100-yard games and scored 28 touchdowns including a six TD performance—all of which are records at ‘The U’.

    McGahee finished his time in Coral Gables with 31 career TD and ranks eighth on the career list with 2,067 rushing yards.

    McGahee tallied 168 points that season, and for perspective, the second-highest scoring year was compiled by Todd Sievers—a kicker—with 119 in 2001.

    He had one dominant—and as you can see, dominant—season, but McGahee gets slotted lower than some may expect because 2002 was practically his only collegiate year.

5. Clinton Portis (1999-2001)

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    A starter on the 2001 national championship team, Clinton Portis finished his Miami career with 2,523 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

    His 1,200-yard 2001 campaign ranks as the fifth-best in a single season, and he even led the team in rushing in 1999 as a freshman with 839 yards.

    Portis is tied for the most career 100-yard games with 14, and he added 21 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

    Even while sharing a backfield with Gore and McGahee, Portis earned first-team All-Big East and third-team All-American honors in 2001.

4. James Jackson (1997-2000)

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    When talking about former Hurricane running backs, James Jackson sometimes gets overlooked because of a disappointing NFL career.

    But Jackson gained the third-most career yards (2,953) and scored the fourth-most touchdowns (29) while at Miami.

    He put together back-to-back, 11-touchdown seasons (1999, 2000) and had a decent impact, catching 38 for 378 yards and three scores.

    Jackson was also one of the most consistent backs Miami has ever had, as he gained 595, 545, 782 and 1,006 yards in his four respective seasons.

3. Alonzo Highsmith (1983-1986)

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    “Less-seasoned” Miami fans, such as myself, most recognize Alonzo Highsmith for being one of the players interviewed in Billy Corben’s “The U” documentary.

    But, Highsmith was one of the best running backs to play for the University of Miami.

    Highsmith led the ’Canes rushing attack for two seasons and compiled 1,873 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding 977 receiving yards and 7 scores.

    He has the 10th-most all-purpose yards (2,935) in school history and was also a member of the dynasty-starting 1983 national championship team.

    Highsmith was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

2. Ottis Anderson (1975-1978)

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    Ottis Anderson was the first running back in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a season when he did in it in his 1978 team MVP campaign.

    Anderson holds a Miami record for career rushing yards with 3,331 and was the leading rusher for each of his four seasons.

    He also has the second-most all-purpose yards (4,265) at Miami, and his 1,708 all-purpose-yard performance in 1978 ranked second-best until Duke Johnson surpassed that number in 2012.

    Anderson was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Ring of Honor in 1999.

1. Edgerrin James (1996-1998)

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    Edgerrin James was an absolute monster during his three seasons at the University of Miami.

    He set the single-game record compiling 299 rushing yards in the 49-45 thriller against UCLA in 1998 and finished that season with a then-record 17 touchdowns.

    The 1997 team MVP finished his career with 2,960 rushing yards, 32 touchdowns and 14 100-yard games, and James’ 212 points make him the highest-scoring non-kicker in school history.

    James was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.