Saturday's game marks a meeting between ESPN's No. 1 -- Miami -- and No. 2 -- Clemson -- rated recruiting classes in 2008.
The players from those signing classes will comprise the core talent on both sidelines when the Tigers host the No. 16 Hurricanes at Memorial Stadium.
Kyle Parker, Da'Quan Bowers, Andre Ellington, Dwayne Allen and Jamie Harper were among the members of Clemson's 2008 class, the program's highest-rated group since the emergence of website rankings, according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.
Jacory Harris, Brandon Harris, Sean Spence and Travis Benjamin were among the top-rated prospects to sign with Miami in 2008.
While the classes are similar in talent, they are much different in another aspect speaking to the inherent advantages for Miami, and disadvantages for Clemson: Miami's class was home-grown, while Clemson's 2008 class was made up of mostly out-of-state imports.
Florida produces more Division I prospects in one year than South Carolina produces in five years, according to a Sports Illustrated study.
To understand the wealth of south Florida's football talent, consider 18 of Miami's 33 signees in 2008 were from hometowns no farther than 90 miles from Miami. On Miami's 2001 national title team, 38 players were from hometowns 90 miles or closer to the Orange Bowl.
Only two of Clemson's 26 signees in 2008 were from within a 90-mile radius of Memorial Stadium, and 15 were from out of state.
Dabo Swinney was on the road as an assistant in 2008, signing 11 of the players in the prized class, earning him a ranking as one of Rivals' top 25 recruiters.
"I can't imagine not having a great class every year (at Miami)," Swinney said. "We don't have that luxury here. We have to roll our sleeves up and go to work."
Miami's 2001 national title team included Miami natives Sean Taylor, Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore -- all NFL Pro Bowlers.
"It's kind of like Sears and Roebuck," Clemson assistant coach Billy Napier said of Miami. "Open up the catalogue and pick what you want."
While more people live in the metro area of Miami (5.4 million) than in the entire state of South Carolina (4.5 million), Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said population cannot alone explain the football fertility of south Florida.
"The youth league there is unbelievable," Steele said. "Go to a youth league game. They've had it on TV before, ESPN's Pop Warner. It's amazing. There are tons of people. There's more people at their games than at Division II games. Get a guy that rushes for 160 yards in a pee-wee football game, and he's 10. He's king. It's en vogue to play. Everyone thinks there is lot to do in Miami, but for a 10-year-old kid, what is there to do? Football, basketball and baseball."
The wealth of talent is about culture as much as it is numbers, says Steele who has recruited the region since 1982.
"An example would be you go to Northwestern High School (in Miami)," Steele said of Jacory Harris's alma mater. "They have 12 coaches on that staff, they have spring ball, a full 15 days like college. Go to Dillon, South Carolina, and they don't have spring ball, they don't have 12 coaches. The kids have to work in the tobacco field, so they can't practice till 7:30, 8 at night because he is cropping tobacco.
"It is just a different culture."
Steele credits former Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger for creating the south Florida market. It was Schnellenberger who claimed all the territory south of Lake Okeechobee as "the state of Miami." Schnelleberger coached at Miami from 1979 to 1983.
"That one man had as much to do with changing football in south Florida, in my opinion, as anybody," Steele said. "It changed the whole culture."
For Clemson, if the 2008 class is something of an anomaly, might it therefore present a window of opportunity as those players enter their college primes?
"We are not trying to say 'this is a window of opportunity,' we are just trying to be a good football team," Swinney said. "I don't really look at rankings coming out. I'm interested in what they are four or five years from now; I think that is a true measure. But that class in particular is a pretty special group and most of them are having a big impact on this football team."
The rare class was also held intact thanks to Tommy Bowden's contract extension, costing the school a $3.5 million buyout a year later.
If Clemson was able to hypothetically sustain top-10 classes, it would likely be built upon out of state recruits. Danny Ford's 1981 national title team was built heavily off North Carolina and Georgia recruits, and Swinney has returned to a similar recruiting practice.
"Now we have great tradition to recruit to, a great environment, but we are kind of tucked away in the northwest corner of South Carolina," Swinney said. "We don't have some mecca of population around us. You have to go get them."
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).
Clemsonís Kyle Parker, Jacksonville, Fla.×
Miamiís Travis Benjamin, Belle Glade, Fla.×
Miamiís Jacory Harris, Miami, Fla.×
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