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22 April 2009

The end of the line

Dan Stein

Dan Stein

On Saturday, Miami’s 14-year streak of first-round draft picks will end. This is the type of record that may never be equaled, although the USC Trojans are looking like they could threaten it.

The end of this streak has been signaled for several years.The death knell almost rang last year, when safety Kenny Phillips snuck into the first round as the last pick.

This year, however, no such luck will be had. Bruce Johnson is Miami’s top prospect, which in and of itself is a sign of the program’s decline. Johnson is given a sixth round grade by most in the business.

And that is it. One late round pick. For an entire senior class at Miami.

I have droned time and again in this space about the atrocities propagated on this program by Larry Coker. This is perhaps the final time I will get to do so and, perhaps, the time that best hammers home the point.

Even when Miami has not won, it has produced NFL players.

Chuck Foreman, Jim Otto and Ted Hendricks are Hall of Fame-quality NFL players that toiled on bad Miami teams in the BH (Before Howard) period. Coming off Coker’s final 7-6 season, three Canes were drafted in the first round.

So, to say that Coker’s losses speak for themselves is not wholly accurate. Instead, the rot that Coker wrought on this vessel is finally coming to its peak.

Johnson will likely be the only Cane drafted. His college career was largely unproductive, despite a nice recruiting file.

He is a step slow for a guy who is a touch too small. And he is the best we have to offer this year.

The streak will start again soon enough, there is too much talent for it not to. However, maybe it is a good thing to be done with it.

The emphasis of the program seemed to have shifted. Recruits came in thinking it was their right to be a first rounder.

Lost was the gritty work ethic and fierce drive that made so many players into the stars that now populate NFL highlight reels. Now the players see exactly what happens when you lose that fire.

It is a privilege to go to the league and not a guarantee. Sometimes it is the less talented guy, the Bruce Johnson type, the worker bee, who is left to shoulder a burden that he never should have been left with.