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Defensive stars have always led the way for the Miami Hurricanes best teams

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Some dynasties are built on quarterbacks. Some are built on coaches.

This one was built on defense.

The University of Miami‘s greatest success has always been because of strong defensive tackles, fierce linebackers and relentless safeties. Those guys usually made the day unbearable for the opposition.

But who are the best?

Here in the week of the defender at the Saint PetersBlog, we ask who the top 10 defenders of UM history are:

10. Bennie Blades (1988-1987): Blades was a force at safety for the ‘Canes. The third overall pick by the Lions.

9. Russell Maryland (1990-1991): Maryland was the first overall pick in the draft by Dallas. The winner of the Outland.

8. Cortez Kennedy (1987-1989): Kennedy reached eight Pro Bowls with the Seahawks. Helped dominate for the Hurricanes.

7. Sean Taylor (2002-2003): A force in the secondary. The fifth overall selection by the Redskins.

6. Jonathan Vilma (2001-2002): A big, fast linebacker in the middle of the Miami defense. The 12th overall pick in the draft.

5. Jerome Brown (1983-1986): Brown was loud and opinionated, and he would lead a team out of a steak fry. But he was a dominating player, too. The ninth pick of the Eagles.

4. Ted Hendricks (1967-1969): The Mad Stork played at Miami before the headlines got big. Still, he was good enough to be a second-round pick of the Colts. Fifth in the Heisman voting.

3. Ed Reed (1998-2001): Reed was the best player in the secondary the Hurricanes ever had. A star for years with the Ravens.

2. Warren Sapp (1992-1994): Sapp finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy his final year at Miami. Drafted 12th by the Bucs and reached the Hall of Fame.

1. Ray Lewis (1993-1995): Skipped his senior season, but still finished fifth on the team’s all-time tackle list. Made 13 Pro Bowls for the Ravens.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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