If you're looking for an extra story line to sink your teeth into this Saturday when the 16th-ranked Hurricanes travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson at high noon, here's a good one: consider this game the 2008 recruiting national championship.
The Canes, you might remember, were tabbed with having the No. 1 recruiting class in the country by ESPN in 2008. The Canes signed 12 of the Top 150 players in ESPN's class. Clemson was right behind UM with 10, a class considered the second best in the country.
Here's who was on ESPN's list...
1. DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
12. Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson
21. Sean Spence, OLB, Miami
27. Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
28. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
34. Kyle Parker, QB, Clemson
39. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
40. Spencer Adams, S, Clemson
44. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
53. Ramon Buchanon, OLB, MiamI
63. Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
65. Xavier Brewer, DB, Clemson
68. Davon Johnson, WR, Miami
77. Jordan Futch, LB, Miami
78. Antoine McClain, OT, Clemson
83. Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
90. Marcus Robinson DE, Miami
104. C.J. Holton, LB, Miami
145. Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami
If you take score based on starters alone, the Tigers have obviously gotten more bang for their buck. Parker, Bowerrs, Harper, Ellington, Thompson, McClain and Allen are all consistent starters for Clemson. UM has defensive stars in Spence, Harris and has gotten plenty of big plays from Benjamin. But not enough to claim to have the better class at the moment, especially when you consider Clemson played for an ACC title last year and the Canes are still looking for their first trip to one. But a lot can change on Saturday with a big Canes win.
Harris, who along with Spence got to know many of Clemson players in the 2008 Under Armour High School All-American game, said last year's 40-37 overtime loss is incentive enough for him to seek revenge.
"It was a tough loss," Harris said Tuesday. "It was one of those games we felt like we had a win and let it slip through our hands. It was unacceptable. We came in yesterday and looked at the film and it kind of hurt."
Spence, who was hurt in last year's game, is playing down the class rivalry. For him, it's about the teams. "That's 2008. This is 2010," Spence said. "We're going to see who the best team is, not the best class."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS FROM TUESDAY...
> Freshman offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson practiced with the first team Tuesday, but don't take that as a sign he's won the right tackle job or will be starting Saturday against Clemson. Just take it as a sign he's being tested and will probably play more.
In a 10 minute private interview with Shannon, our Susan Miller Degnan learned senior Joel Figueroa is back taking snaps at guard. Shannon isn't necessarily disappointed with Figueroa, who was moved out to tackle from guard to try and help fill a position of need. It's just evident Figueroa, who gave up the sack that led to Jacory Harris "nicking" his left arm, probably isn't fast enough to play out there. So, it appears Henderson, who continues to improve, will split time out at tackle along with redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson while Figueroa still fills in some as well.
"Everyday he's getting better," center Tyler Horn said of Henderson. "As the year goes on, you're going to see him a lot more. He's a good player and he's earning his time on the field. He asks questions all the time with the coaches, with the GAs, learning the offense so he can be on the field. He has a lot of desire."
> The reason I was told cornerback Ryan Hill will probably remain in the starting lineup at cornerback this week over DeMarcus Van Dyke is because Hill (6-0, 205) is simply more physical than DVD (6-1, 185). The coaches also want to reward Hill for the way he helped shut down Pitt's Jon Baldwin (6-5, 230).
> Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker was suffering from bruised ribs after the Auburn game, but practiced full speed Monday. The Hurricanes' defense ranks second in the nation with 4.67 sacks a game. While defensive end Olivier Vernon said the Canes' No. 1 goal will be to put heat on Parker, they don't necessarily want to hurt him. "We're just trying to get to him," Vernon said. "We're not trying to hurt the man."
> Vernon by the way was a little bothered by the fact the Tigers are hosting the Canes on Homecoming weekend. The Tigers are 64-19-3 in Homecoming games and have only two losses on Homecoming since 1971. "I'm just guessing they want a good game," Spence said. "We'll put on a show for the home crowd."
> While Clemson's receivers posed a huge threat last season to the Canes, Saturday's game looks like it will be more about slowing down the Tigers' running backs Andre Ellington (7.4 avg, 4 TDs) and Jamie Harper (5.0 avg, 1 TD rushing, 5 catches, 59 yards, 3 TDs receiving) and tight end Dwayne Allen (8 catches, 156 yards, 1 TD).
"They got two good tailbacks," Shannon said. "Those guys are very explosive. Ellington is probably the fastest one. Harper is probably bigger, but he's got speed also. They're going to try to get matchups, linebackers on running backs.
"The tight end [Allen] is a key for them. He does a great job running option routes, getting to the sticks, getting first downs. It's going to be very vital for us that we take him out of the game when they go to the passing game. Their offense -- they run screens to the tight end, tailback, run sprint out and throw it to the tight end, wheel routes back to the running back. Everything they do is predicated on mismatches. That's what we have to notice and observe on film. "
Shannon said freshmen Eduardo Clements and Storm Johnson have done a nice job playing the role of Ellington and Harper this week on the scout team.
> Canes defensive tackle Marcus Forston has a soft cast wrapped around the thumb on his right hand. He said he dislocated it, but will play Saturday for sure. "They put it back in place," Forston said. "I'm good."