By David Villavicencio
The University of Miami has won five National Championships in football and each title-winning team has been unique from the others.
From 1983-2002, the Hurricanes won five of a possible 20 championships, the most of any school in that two-decade span. Five different head coaches guided the program over those 20 years, building one of the greatest dynasties in college football history.
After highlighting the award-winning #BuildingChampions campaign, HurricaneSports.com looked at the characteristics of what made the 1987 team champions and the 1983 one-point win over Florida State that propelled the Canes into a match-up against No. 1 Nebraska. This week’s edition of #BuildingChampions Wednesday looks at arguably the greatest team ever assembled in college football history, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.
That is what the Miami Hurricanes proved on a weekly basis during the 2001 season.
The ’01 Canes were hungry for redemption after being shut out of the Orange Bowl BCS National Championship Game in 2000 in favor of Florida State.
Miami had beaten the Seminoles in the head-to-head matchup earlier that season and was ranked higher in both human polls, but the BCS computers ranked FSU above the Canes. So the Hurricanes played in the Sugar Bowl, where they beat No. 7 Florida 37-20 to finish the year 11-1.
While the 2000 season was the school’s best since 1992 (11-1), the 2001 team was motivated by being shunned of an appearance in the National Championship Game, the year before and they came out with a vengeance.
The Canes dominated from their season-opening win at Penn State (33-7) through the 37-14 victory over No. 4 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, going undefeated for the third time in school history.
The Hurricanes scored 512 (42.6 points per game) points, while yielding only 117 (9.75 points allowed per game). Miami beat opponents by an average of 32.9 points per game, the largest margin in the school's history, and set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked teams (124–7), when they beat No. 14 Syracuse (59-0) and No. 12 Washington (65-7) in back-to-back weeks in November.
At the time, the offense set the school scoring record for a regular season (475 points, currently second to 2002’s 527 points), while the defense led the nation in scoring defense (fewest points allowed), pass defense and turnover margin.Additionally, the Hurricane defense scored eight touchdowns of its own.
Six players were finalists for national awards, including Maxwell Award winner Ken Dorsey and Outland Trophy winner Bryant McKinnie. Dorsey was also a Heisman finalist, finishing third, while McKinnie was joined by punt returner Phillip Buchanon, right tackle Joaquin Gonzalez, strong safety Ed Reed, tight end Jeremy Shockey and kicker Todd Sievers as first team All-Americans.
The 2001 roster was filled with superstars and standouts beyond Dorsey, McKinnie, Reed, Shockey, Buchanon, Gonzalez and Sievers. Gonzalez also won the William V. Campbell Trophy, considered the “Academic Heisman”, for the 2001 season.
McKinnie, Gonzalez and 2002 Rimington Award winner Brett Romberg, as well as All-BIG EAST guards Martin Bibla and Sherko Haji-Rasouli, opened holes for talented backs Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Najeh Davenport and Frank Gore. Future first round pick Vernon Carey was also on the 2001 team.
The receiving corps was led by Andre Johnson, Kevin Beard and Daryl Jones, with future standout Roscoe Parrish waiting in the wings. Tight end was loaded, too, with future star Kellen Winslow II playing behind Shockey.
As deep as the offense was in 2001, the defense was absolutely loaded with talent.
The defensive line featured future first round picks Vince Wilfork, Jerome McDougle and William Joseph Key contributors Matt Walters, Andrew Williams, Cornelius Green and Jamaal Green added to one of the deepest position groups on the roster.
Linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams wreaked havoc all over the field while Chris Campbell and Howard Clark chipped in with solid play throughout the ’01 campaign.
The defensive backfield was one of the greatest in the history of college football. Reed and Buchanon were joined by future first round pick Mike Rumph and James Lewis in the starting lineup. But Miami had incredible depth at DB, rotating in Markese Fitzgerald, James Scott, Alphonso Marshall, Maurice Sikes and future first rounders Antrel Rolle and Sean Taylor. Another future first rounder, Kelly Jennings, was also on the roster in 2001.
In all, 17 players from the 2001 Miami football team were drafted in the first-round of the NFL Draft (5 in the 2002 NFL Draft: Buchanon, McKinnie, Reed, Rumph and Shockey; 4 in 2003: Johnson, Joseph, McDougle and McGahee; 6 in 2004: Carey, Taylor, Vilma, Wilfork, Williams and Winslow; 1 in 2005: Rolle; and 1 in 2006: Jennings).
Overall, 38 members of the team would be selected in the NFL Draft. As of 2012, they had earned 41 trips to the Pro Bowl: Ed Reed (9), Andre Johnson (6), Vince Wilfork (5), Frank Gore (4), Jeremy Shockey (4), Jonathan Vilma (3), Willis McGahee (2), Chris Myers (2), Clinton Portis (2), Antrel Rolle (2), Sean Taylor (2), Bryant McKinnie (1) and Kellen Winslow II (1).
Reed and McKinnie were inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. Dorsey and Romberg joined them a year later and a host of other ’01 Canes are sure to be enshrined in the future.
The impressive collection of talent was just one key component that went into building the 2001 National Champions. They also used the 2000 season as motivation to assure themselves a spot in the final game of the season.
The 2001 Canes knew that losing a game, like they did in 2000 to Washington, could cost them an appearance in the Rose Bowl. So they worked harder and got stronger. They studied more film and honed their craft.
The Canes were determined to leave no doubt that they were the best team in college football and that is exactly what they accomplished.