Michigan is currently the favorite for Hand's services. Will they seal his commitment on Thursday?
On Thursday, one of the more anticipated commitments of the 2014 class will take place as five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, VA/Woodbridge) will make his college decision between Alabama, Florida and Michigan.
Hand's recruitment hasn't been overly complicated, as he's done relatively few interviews and has kept his top groups in the open for the better part of a year now. He's also been very clear in terms of what he's looking for in a university, giving the three finalists a better opportunity to showcase what they have to offer when he's on campus.
Virginia Tech: Once believed to be the leader for Hand, he visited campus multiple times early in his recruitment and was consistent in talking about Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster as his favorite coach. To the surprise of many, he eliminated VT when making his final cut on June 12th.
Ohio State: Hand visited Columbus unofficially twice during his recruitment: once as a prospective recruit and once while in town for a NFTC event on the Ohio State campus. Despite what looked like a legitimate opportunity to be in it until the end, Hand did not name them in his top original top five released back on January 8th.
North Carolina: Hand visited Chapel Hill early on and was given the red carpet treatment (literally) while visiting for a basketball game against Duke. The Tar Heels made his original top five, but never really seemed like a top contender. They were eliminated when he narrowed his list to three.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks put themselves in a decent position early because of Hand's relationship with defensive line coach Brad Lawing and his admiration for their star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Once Lawing left for Florida, however, their long term chances were all but gone and he had what he proclaimed a "good" visit in April. They were eliminated along with the Tar Heels in June.
LSU/USC: After narrowing his original top five to three, Hand brought up the possibility of visiting both LSU and USC officially, as the Tigers had reached out to him a few times and USC was his childhood favorite. Neither visit ever took place, however.
Why Alabama Could Be The Choice: Alabama's success on the field isn't lost on any recruit, including Hand. After another impressive victory over LSU on Saturday, the Tide have put themselves in a position to win a third straight national championship and a fourth in five years.
Alabama is also the one school Hand is still considering for engineering. On his official visit, he met with UA's Engineering Dean Charles Carr, something he described as his favorite part of the entire visit.
Why They May Not: The biggest reason would potentially be that he wants to major in sports management, something Alabama doesn't offer. The argument could also be made that UA's academic prestige is below that of Michigan's as well.
Hand On Nick Saban: “Either you hate him or you love him. He’s a great guy and a phenomenal coach and that kind of speaks for itself. There’s nothing you could really say that’s bad about him. The guy wants to win.”
Offered: April 17, 2012
Visit Date: November 8, 2013 (Official)
Recruiter: Brad Lawing
Why UF Could Be The Choice: Florida immediately moved into Hand's top group the day Brad Lawing left South Carolina for Gainesville. His relationship with him is what's kept the Gators in it the entire time and gave them the opportunity for an official visit.
One thing UF may have in its favor with Hand is that they would give him the opportunity to choose either engineering or sports management instead of only one major. Despite their poor showing against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Florida has one of the best campuses and atmospheres in the country. I strongly believe Hand is not as concerned with the present as he is the future of a program. With many top players coming in and a team this season that's been beset by many injuries, Florida should be fine going forward.
Why They May Not: The biggest reason may be that it's too little too late with Florida. Last weekend was his first visit to UF, and while their future may still be fine, the actual game may have been an underwhelming experience. Still, they're in it for a reason.
Hand on what UF offers: “Basically they had a balance of great football, tradition, and you can get offered a great education. So what's not to love? And you're in Florida, and it's nice weather.”
Why Michigan Could Be The Choice: Despite Hand never going on the record, Michigan has been the prohibitive favorite since the day Virginia Tech was dropped off of his list. His unofficial to Ann Arbor was something we've reported as being the best visit he had gone on to that point, and he's developed solid relationships with Michigan commitments Jabrill Peppers and Michael Ferns among others. The Wolverines also have the academic factor in their favor, and are the reason he's considering sports management in the first place. He's also talked about Michigan being his favorite coaching staff as well.
Why They May Not: One thing going against Michigan is the weather. It's not something Hand has ever made very public, but it's something we've been told in the past that is a small consideration. Also, losing two straight in a relatively embarrassing fashion leading up to the announcement is about the worst case scenario for the Wolverines in terms of an on-field product goes.
Mentor John Harris on Michigan's academics: "What they do with to help their players after football is over is awesome. It's different than other schools in that regard. Sometimes you go there and they do the same thing academically both times. Not Michigan."
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