CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Players
Who were the top 20 players since CFN started in 1998? No. 11 Ed Reed, S Miami
CFN Era Top 20 Players: No. 11 Ed Reed, S Miami
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, so we’re looking back on the greatest players, games, coaches and more since we first kicked things off back in 1998.
For the Top 20 Players since CFN started, the rules are simple. Who made the biggest impact, who were the most important, and who were ones who generated the most buzz – for good and bad?
This isn’t necessarily a list of the most talented players – that’s what the NFL Draft is for. Who were the defining players of the last 20 years?
Also, nothing before 1998 counts.
Ed Reed, S Miami (1997-2002)
Coming up with Miami players for any list of all-time greats is next to impossible.
Out of all the superstar talents, NFL prospects, and legends, who’s the guy who stands out from the pack?
Over the years, Michael Irvin has established himself as Mr. Hurricane, and Warren Sapp isn’t far behind, but really, how do you pick just one?
QB Ken Dorsey turned into one of the biggest and most important players a few years after CFN got started, but again, who might get picked from the early 2000s juggernauts from Willis McGahee, Bryant McKinnie, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, and on and on and on.
It’s Ed Reed.
Combining the athleticism, playmaking ability, and the flair for the dramatic, Reed was the dream of a defensive quarterback.
Who was the heart-and-soul star of Act Three of the Miami dynasty? It was the safety who wasn’t even from the area.
As much as Miami types like to gush over keeping the top local players close to home, it was the New Orleans native who would embody everything a Hurricane defensive star should be.
Freakishly athletic, Reed was a high school track star as well as a top football prospect. He got to Coral Gables in 1997, redshirted, and then along with Oklahoma’s Roy Williams and USC’s Troy Polamalu, took college safety play to a whole new level.
Miami was hardly back to being Miami again.
Butch Davis had a rebuilding job to do under tumultuous circumstances, going 5-6 in 1997. But the talent was in place to rebuild and rebound in a hurry, going 9-3 in 1998 against a relatively light schedule.
But late in the year, a hurricane-rescheduled game with UCLA started to change things around, as Edgerrin James ran wild against a Bruin team pushing for a national title. But it was Reed who turned things around in the 49-45 shootout, coming with a massive forced-fumble hit to set up the final score.
That play was nothing new. Reed started every game in a special freshman campaign, making 90 tackles with four forced fumbles, two picks, and seven broken up passes.
Miami struggled early on in 1999, losing three straight on the way to a 5-4 start. But after a 43-10 blasting from Michael Vick and Virginia Tech, the Canes would win their final four games of the season to spark yet another epic run of success.
And Reed? All he did was everything, making 74 tackles with four broken up passes, two picks, and four tackles for loss in an All-Big East season.
And then Miami got really, really good.
That’s what Miami went over Reed’s final 28 games as a Hurricane, with the lone loss a tight 34-29 fight at Washington against a Husky team that would go 11-1 and win the Rose Bowl.
After that? 22-0. That’s how Miami finished up with Reed and company kicking it into high gear.
Reed went from being a tackling machine to a tackling machine who had to be avoided at all costs. He not only came up with 80 tackles in 2000, he picked off eight passes and broke up a whopping 23 passes, being named to everyone’s All-America team.
Now, Reed went from great to special, coming up with the pick-six to help hand Virginia Tech its only loss of the season, and breaking up a key throw to take down a powerhouse of a Florida State team that would go on to play for the national title.
And that Washington loss? 11 tackles and two broken up passes.
Okay … here’s the thing about 2001 Miami. Amazing team, relatively easy road to the national title.
It gets a bit overloved by college football historical types.
Talent-wise, yeah, it’s considered among the greatest teams of all-time. And why not? It went 12-0, it destroyed Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, and how’s this for the players who went in the 2002 and 2003 NFL Drafts?
Reed, Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey, Bryant McKinnie, Phillip Buchanon, Clinton Portis, Najeh Davenport, Jerome McDougle, and Ken Dorsey.
In all 19 players were drafted over the next two seasons off the 2001 Hurricanes, and that doesn’t include Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow Jr. Jonathan Vilma, Vince Wilfork, D.J. Williams, and the nine players drafted in 2004.
However, it’s not like the 2001 team played a murderer’s row of juggernaut opponents.
The Big East schedule just wasn’t that great. The opening win over Penn State was against a bad Nittany Lion team, Florida State was a wee bit down, Washington was starting to fade, and there wasn’t one win over anyone from the SEC or Big Ten.
And that Nebraska team? It was fine, but it didn’t even get to the Big 12 Championship, coming off an absolute pounding from Colorado.
As amazing as Miami was, it struggled way too much to put away an okay Virginia Tech team, and it needed a minor miracle to survive Boston College.
Reed, of course, was sensational. He ended with a career-low 44 tackles, but he picked off a career-high nine interceptions with 18 broken up passes.
And with Boston College driving down 12-7 and with a chance to shock the world and end Miami’s dream campaign, Reed came up with this …
One of the most accomplished defensive backs of all-time, Reed never won the Thorpe Award, but he did finish with 288 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 21 interceptions and 52 broken up passes.
In 2001, he shared the Big East Defensive Player of the Year honor with Syracuse pass rushing terror Dwight Freeney, and was a three-time All-Big East and two-time All-America performer.
Who won the Thorpe instead of Reed? Wisconsin big-play corner Jamar Fletcher in 2000, and another special safety, Oklahoma’s Roy Williams in 2001.
But Reed won the 2001 national title.
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell
Photo credits: University of Miami