2008 Classes Set For Showdown

Saturday's clash between Ohio State and Miami is one of the most anticipated battles of the 2010 season, but some have been looking forward to the game for longer than that. Headliners in each program's class of 2008 had the game circled nearly three years ago as a showdown between two rising programs gunning for a national title. It turns out they were right.

Nearly three years ago in San Antonio, the seeds were planted for Saturday's marquee showdown between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 12 Miami.

There, future Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor – as well as a host of Buckeyes-to-be – suited up in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl with Miami commit Marcus Forston. As conversation tends to do, it turned toward a reunion, one set specifically for Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 11, 2010.

"I remember I was in the U.S. Army All-American game, playing with some of those guys," Forston told the Associated Press this week. "We were saying it then: ‘Our junior year, it's going down.' "

"Three years later, we're here," Pryor said. "It's amazing."

What is even more amazing is how the narrative those players surely dreamed back in 2008 has largely come to fruition. Miami boasted the third-ranked class in the nation that year according to Scout, one spot ahead of Ohio State. Now, those groups have matured into the heart, soul and strength of each team's roster.

"We all wanted to be starting at least by our junior year or our third year," said OSU tight end Jake Stoneburner, who also played in the Army Bowl that year. "We're all here, contending for the national championship. We have a big stage coming up, and that's what we came here for, so I'd say we're doing pretty well."

On the Ohio State side, nine members of that class of 2008 are starting, led by Pryor. He's joined on what looks like perhaps the most explosive offense of the Jim Tressel era by five fellow Army All-American Bowl players in Stoneburner, wideout DeVier Posey and linemen Mike Adams, Michael Brewster and J.B. Shugarts.

2008 recruits Nathan Williams (end) and Andrew Sweat (linebacker) are listed as starters on the defensive side, while Ben Buchanan is the team's starting punter. Signing day commit Orhian Johnson at safety, cornerback Travis Howard and lineman Garrett Goebel are also in the two-deep and expected to play.

"We're excited," Posey said. "We always talked about the ‘Brew Crew' and everything. This is what we wanted. We couldn't wait to be on this stage."

The list is even longer on the Miami side, with 11 members of a 33-player class listed as starters or co-starters in the Hurricanes' official two-deep. That starts at the top in quarterback Jacory Harris, only a three-star prospect in the group from Miami Northwestern who has become a Heisman Trophy candidate along with Pryor.

Though Forston is the only Army All-American Bowl player in the group, the class has yielded impressive depth. Joining Harris on the offensive side as starters are wideouts Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd and Aldarius Johnson as well as fullback Pat Hill and right guard Brandon Washington.

All-America corner Brandon Harris – who considered OSU before picking Miami on signing day – leads a group of listed starters on defense that includes tackle Micanor Regis, end Andrew Smith, safety Vaughn Telemaque and linebackers Ramon Buchanan and Sean Spence. Forston, offensive lineman Benjamin Jones and defensive end Marcus Robinson are key reserves.

That group came to Miami with the Hurricanes at their lowest. Head coach Randy Shannon won only five games in his first season of 2007 after inheriting a crumbling program from Larry Coker, but the Hurricanes won seven games when the class arrived in 2008 and captured nine wins a season ago.

The way Miami sees it, one win in Ohio Stadium can be the public pronouncement that Shannon and that class have the Hurricanes back among the national elite.

"This game can set us up for what we've been working for," Forston said. "This is one of the reasons why I came here."

Ohio State wasn't down in the same way when the '08 class arrived, but the Buckeye program was coming off of consecutive national championship game losses that soured its national reputation.

Since early upheaval in the form of Pryor taking over the starting role from senior Todd Boeckman midway through the '08 season, the group has built steadily toward this moment when they would be leading men on a national title contender.

"Your first two years, you just want to get on the field and try to get as much experience as you can," Brewster said. "You know, we were really looking to the third year, and things have come together for us."

As hard as it is for those players to believe, the biggest game of that third year is now just hours away. Both sides have built steadily toward the moment, and by 7 p.m. Saturday, only one will be able to say it is continuing its upward trek – just the way they players expected it to be.

"It's one of those games you commit and you look up on the calendar and you're like, ‘Junior and senior years, you're playing Miami and going to Miami,' " Brewster said. "It's definitely one game that feels like it's so far away, and then three years goes by and it's a few days away. I'm really excited and it's a great opportunity for our team."

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