Miami All-2000s Team: Defense

By no means was Miami's talent in the 21st century just relegated to the offensive side of the ball. The Hurricanes were also loaded on defense.

DEFENSIVE END - Jerome McDougle
A junior college transfer, McDougle was a 2002 All-American according to the American Football Coaches Association and a Ted Hendricks Award Finalist (for the nations premiere defensive end), and a two-time All-Big East selection.

Perhaps his best game as a Cane came that season as he dominated the Florida Gators, harassing Rex Grossman all day and night at 'the Swamp'.

McDougle was a talented pass rusher, who could also play the run effectively. He would finish his two-year UM career with 14 career sacks and 16 tackles for losses. In 2001, alone, he would amass an amazing 48 quarterback hurries.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE - Vince Wilfork
In the mold of past Cane tackles, Vince was a big guy with a quick first step, who could clog up things inside and collapse the pocket.

He was integral part of the Canes defensive line from 2001-2003. He would end up with 14 career sacks and 37.5 tackles for losses.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE - William Joseph
He would begin his career as a defensive end but would then move inside to his more natural position in 2000. Joseph was a stout player with good strength.

His best year was 2001 when he would tally 10 sacks (including a hat trick versus FSU) and 19 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. His efforts in that national title season were good enough to earn 3rd team All-American honors.

A 2002 Playboy Preseason All-American, and eventual first-round pick of the New York Giants, he finished his Miami career with 19.5 sacks and 47 tackles for losses.

DEFENSIVE END - Baraka Atkins
For his senior year, he's back where he belongs. Folks seem to forget that in 2003( his redshirt freshman year) that he was on pace for double-digit sacks as a defensive end. Due to various factors, the unselfish Atkins had to move inside for the past couple of seasons.

While he was a very good tackle, at 6'4, 275 pounds, he can be a dominant end. He comes into 2006 with 14 career sacks, 20.5 tackles for losses- and he even has a 52 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against Houston in 2004- to his credit.

Atkins has also been as dependable as the sun rising, starting 35 of 36 games in which he's suited up for 'the U'.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jamaal Green, Andrew Williams, Matt Walters, and Damione Lewis

LINEBACKER - Jonathan Vilma
Smart and heady have been used so often to describe the product of Coral Gables High that you began to think his name was 'the Smart and Heady Jonathan Vilma'. Beginning in his true freshman year (where he was named a frosh All-American), where he ably came off the bench, Vilma was a standout performer at the 'mike'.

Out of his 377 career stops, none are more memorable than his two bone-jarring hits in the 2002 Rose Bowl against the 'Huskers. Vilma, like all UM 'backers is a guy that can run and roam sideline-to-sideline and was athletic enough to play in any situation.

A two-time All-Big East selection, he led the 2002 and 2003 teams in tackles.

LINEBACKER - Dan Morgan
In his senior year he had one of the most illustrious seasons ever by a college defender by winning the post-season 'Triple Crown' by garnering the Butkus Award, the Nagurski Award and the Bednarik Award, for his defensive prowess in 2000.

His game that year against the Noles is the stuff of legend. 17 tackles, 14 of them solo, and a key INT at the goal-line right before the half, to key Miami to it's first victory over FSU in five years. All this while battling dehydration and nausea throughout that sweltering afternoon at the Orange Bowl.

He was intensity and courage personified and was one of the key building blocks of the Miami rebuilding efforts in the late 90's.

The 2000 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and a three-time All-Big East performer, his 532 tackles is number one not only at Miami, but in the Big East.

LINEBACKER - D.J. Williams
One of the most heavily decorated players ever to sign with Miami, Williams would begin his career in 2000 as a fullback- even scoring a touchdown in the 2001 Sugar Bowl against the Gators.

But by 2001, he would be entrenched as an outside linebacker for the rest of his Miami career. Williams, had a body chiseled from marble, could mug blockers at the point of attack and lay the wood.

He would have 245 career tackles, 28 of the behind the line of scrimmage and 14 sacks.

HONORABLE MENTION: Rocky McIntosh, Chris Campbell

CORNERBACK - Antrel Rolle
A strong, physical corner, who excelled at press coverage, Rolle, was a versatile and intelligent player who could handle a variety of roles in the defensive backfield.

His signature performance would come in the 2003 season finale at Pittsburgh with the Big East title on the line. Rolle, would throttle Panther All-American Larry Fitzgerald, relegating him to a few token receptions, keying a strong Hurricane defensive performance.

In 2004, he would earn All-American honors and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award( given to the nations best DB), while earning All-ACC honors. A corner who wouldn't shy away from contact, he had 192 career tackles, along with nine takeaways.

CORNERBACK - Phillip Buchanon
P-Buch is perhaps the best pure cover man Miami has ever had. Blessed with great speed and cat-quick, he could blanket receivers and shut down one-half of the field.

In 2001, he would earn All-Big East accolades for both his work at corner and punt returning.

Buchanon was always a threat with the ball in his hand, he averaged 31.4 yards a return on his five career interceptions.

SAFETY - Ed Reed
Not much needs to be said about perhaps one of the great leaders and players in Miami lore. Not only was he the catalyst for a secondary that featured three first-round picks, but he was one of the unquestioned leaders of the 2001 championship squad.

A two-time All-American, his 21 intercepts is the best in Miami history, as is his 389 yards in interception return yardage. He would take five of his pick-offs back to the paint. In all, his turnovers and blocked kicks would lead to 106 points throughout his run at Miami.

But still, even listing all his honors and statistics still doesn't tell the full story of #20.

SAFETY - Sean Taylor
Quite simply, one of the best pure athletes to ever play at Miami- and that's saying something. One of four true freshman to earn a letter on the 2001 team, by 2002 he was starring as the starting safety. He would cap off that season by picking off two passes in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against the Buckeyes and making 11 tackles.

2003 was where he would take his game to another stratosphere, picking off 10 throws( an all-time seasonal best at UM) and absolutely dominating FSU at Doak Walker with two picks, including an amazing 'pick six' where he zig-zagged through a host of Noles through a soggy, wet field. His two intercepts at Pittsburgh was part of a defensive effort that held the great Fitzgerald to three grabs for 26 yards.

While he rightfully earned All-American distinction and was named the 2003 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, the fact he didn't win the Thorpe Award( over Oklahoma's Derrick Strait) is a robbery of Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez proportions.

PUNTER - Freddie Capshaw
A former walk-on, the strong legged Capshaw provided booming punts for Miami on a consistent basis. Capshaw, a two-time All-Big East performer, was also a 2001 Ray Guy Award finalist, when he averaged 41.8 yards per boot. He would also win Big East Special Teams Player of the Week four times throughout his career.

His best game was the 2001 rout of FSU in which he averaged a whopping 48.2 yards per punt and he even scored a seven-yard touchdown after a botched hold on a field goal attempt.

PUNT RETURNER - Santana Moss
I wouldn't argue with the selection of Buchanon, who earned All-American honors for his returning skills in 2001, was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year and was one of three finalists for the Tatupu Award( for best special teams player) for his 15 returns that netted 464 yards and two scores.

But what swings this by a hair in favor of 'Tana is that he is the all-time leader in punt return yards with 1,196 and touchdowns with six.

Either way, you can't go wrong.

HONORABLE MENTION: Roscoe Parrish

Steve Kim can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com

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