PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – It wasn't easy, but Local10.com reviewed the rosters of the greatest Florida, Florida State and Miami teams to determine the schools' all-time teams in honor of the 150th anniversary of college football.
Choosing just a handful of players from every position at three programs that have combined for 11 national championships (10 1/2 for those who don't recognize the 1991 split title, awarded to Miami by The Associated Press and Washington by the coaches) is a difficult task, but Local10.com weighed several factors to determine the best of the best, including national award winners, national and school record holders, name recognition and professional draft status.
The Gators staked their reputation on their high-scoring offense in the 1990s, a decade that ushered in the Steve Spurrier era. Prior to Spurrier's arrival, Florida was in the midst of its second NCAA investigation that ultimately led to the ouster of previous coaches Charley Pell and Galen Hall.
Spurrier, who won the 1966 Heisman Memorial Trophy as Florida's quarterback, returned to his alma mater in 1990, established the "fun-n-gun" offense and coached the Gators to their first official Southeastern Conference championship in 1991. It was the first of six for the Gators, who also captured the 1996 national title along the way.
For this reason, Spurrier makes the list as all-time coach at Florida.
Of course, there is a case to be made for Urban Meyer, who coached the Gators to a pair of national championships, but Spurrier gets the nod for transforming Florida football into an elite program that attracted Meyer to the job.
Meyer's star recruit, Tim Tebow, also makes the list at quarterback. Tebow arguably became the most popular quarterback to ever wear orange and blue, as evidenced by all the children wearing No. 15 Florida jerseys in the Tebow era and well after he left campus. Love him or hate him (and there's plenty who do both), Tebow was a winner, first as a situational backup quarterback on the 2006 national championship team and then as a starter on the 2008 title team. Oh, he also snuck in a Heisman Trophy in 2007, becoming the first sophomore to ever win the award.
Fifteen years ago, Spurrier or 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel might have made the list, but Tebow changed everything.
Although the Gators now disavow convicted killer Aaron Hernandez, there's no denying his role on the 2008 national championship team. The 2009 Mackey Award winner was Tebow's favorite target, leading the Gators with five receptions for 57 yards in the national championship game.
Had Spurrier embraced the running game more, Emmitt Smith might have had another season to improve upon his nearly 4,000 rushing yards. Nevertheless, the NFL's all-time leading rusher also makes the list as Florida's finest running back.
Defensively, Keiwan Ratliff and Fred Weary make the list at cornerback as owners of the school's single-season and all-time interceptions record. They join Louis Oliver and Will White in the secondary.
Jack Youngblood anchors the defensive line, comprised of Youngblood on one end, Alex Brown on the other, and Gerard Warren and Brad Culpepper on the interior.
Choosing a quarterback for the Hurricanes was a tough call. Conventional wisdom might point to Ken Dorsey, who led Miami to its last national championship in 2001, but Vinny Testaverde is the more-decorated player, becoming Miami's first Heisman Trophy winner in 1986. Dorsey finished third in Heisman voting in 2001 and fifth in 2002, while Testaverde went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft. Testaverde spent 21 seasons playing for eight different teams in the NFL.
There was little doubt which receivers would make the list. Michael Irvin owns the team's all-time record for touchdown receptions, while Santana Moss is the all-time receiving yards leader. Bubba Franks beat out the "soldier," 2003 Mackey Award winner Kellen Winslow II, at tight end.
As tempting as it might be to name Willis McGahee to the list at running back, the honor goes to Ottis Anderson, whose 3,331 rushing yards is still the standard by which all Miami running backs are measured. Duke Johnson surpassed Anderson's career rushing record in 2014, but Johnson has yet to prove himself in the NFL. Alonzo Highsmith, who rushed for 1,914 yards and 18 touchdowns at Miami, makes the list at fullback.
Ted Hendricks and Daniel Stubbs make the list at defensive end, while Russell Maryland and Warren Sapp get the nod at defensive tackle. Micheal Barrow, Ray Lewis and 2000 Butkus Award winner Dan Morgan make up the all-time linebackers.
Perhaps the toughest call to make for the Hurricanes was at safety. A case could be made for Sean Taylor, who was fatally shot during a botched robbery at his South Florida home in 2007, but in the end the distinction went to 1987 Jim Thorpe Award winner Bennie Blades and all-time interceptions leader Ed Reed. Antrel Rolle and Phillip Buchanon are the all-time cornerbacks.
Howard Schnellenberger is recognized as the all-time Hurricanes coach. There can be only one, so the white-haired, pipe-smoking figure with the southern draw earns the distinction. The dominant Miami teams of the 1980s and early 1990s might cease to exist had it not been for the foundation laid by Schnellenberger. Don't forget that Miami football was on shaky ground in the few years before Schnellenberger arrived. It was Schnellenberger who saved the Hurricanes from likely extinction, putting him ahead of successor Jimmy Johnson or Dennis Erickson.
Florida State Seminoles
There is no Florida State coach greater than Bobby Bowden, an obvious choice to lead the all-time team. Bowden spent 34 seasons at the helm of Florida State's football team, leading the Seminoles to 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships and a pair of national titles in the 1990s. During his tenure, the Seminoles spent 14 consecutive seasons with a final ranking of fifth or better with 10 or more wins.
A lot of Bowden's accomplishments had to do with the play of his quarterback. Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke or Jameis Winston all could have made the list at quarterback, but the Jimbo Fisher-coached Winston gets the nod for achieving so much in such a short amount of time. Despite his numerous off-the-field indiscretions (alleged or admitted), Winston played as though he had no worries, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2013 while leading his team to a national championship. He left FSU with a 26-1 record as a starter, throwing for 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns in just two seasons.
One of his favorite targets was tight end Nick O'Leary, who won the 2014 Mackey Award. The only other player on the list not coached by Bowden is Fred Biletnikoff, after whom the national receiver award is named, but it could have easily been Ron Sellers, whose 212 catches for 3,598 yards was an NCAA record at the time. Joining Biletnikoff on the list is Peter Warrick, whose 31 touchdown catches tops the all-time FSU record.
Three offensive starters from the 1993 national championship team -- running back Warrick Dunn, fullback William Floyd and center Clay Shiver -- made the list. Ken Lanier, who started 46 consecutive games for the Seminoles, and Jamie Dukes, who started every game of his career, join All-Americans Alex Barron and Rodney Hudson on the offensive line.
All of the defensive players hail from the Bowden era. Headlining the list is a pair of Jim Thorpe Award winners, Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley, at cornerback. Derrick Brooks joins Butkus Award winners Marvin Jones and Paul McGowan at linebacker.
Sebastian Janikowski, the only two-time winner of the Groza Award, is recognized as FSU's all-time kicker, while Rohn Stark makes the list at punter. Janikowski remains the highest-drafted kicker in NFL history (17th overall).