Arguably the nation's most feared defensive recruit is headed to Tuscaloosa.
At a live ceremony at Woodbridge (Va.) High School, 5-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand announced he will be attending the University of Alabama:
No. 6 overall recruit DE Da'Shawn Hand picks Alabama. An insane class just got even better. Wow.— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) November 14, 2013
Hand, the nation's fourth-ranked player according to 247Sports' composite rankings, chose Alabama over Michigan and Florida.
Coming into Thursday's decision, the Wolverines began emerging as the overwhelming favorite. 247Sports' "crystal ball" had Hand's status at 88 percent for Michigan, 11 percent for Alabama and only one percent for Florida. Others like LSU and USC were said to have been in the mix, but only tangentially.
Hand's decision, even if somewhat expected, has to be disappointing for those spurned. Long viewed as the nation's best high school defensive end, Hand was sought after by just about every top-flight college football school and initially trimmed his list to five—Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Michigan—in January. Florida, LSU and USC eventually crept into the mix, but Alabama and Michigan were the mainstays and drew much of his attention.
The senior seemed happy about his choice, according to Andrew Bone of Rivals.com:
"I made the right decision. Roll TIde!"- Da'Shawn Hand— Andrew Bone (@AndrewJBone) November 14, 2013
The Tide came offering near-guaranteed title contention at this point. Nick Saban is attempting to win his third straight BCS title and fourth in five years this season. Brady Hoke, while not at Saban's accomplishment level, has resuscitated the Wolverines program since taking over for Rich Rodriguez in 2011.
Each finalist, besides USC, has stability in the coaching ranks. The youngster noted his adoration of all the finalists' coaching staffs when naming his initial top five, and having a head coach who is likely to be around for at least the next three years had to help out Alabama. With stability in the locker room, Hand will be able to work on realizing his talent and possibly playing on Sundays.
Talent is one thing Hand certainly does not lack. At Woodbridge, Hand amassed a total of 37 sacks over his sophomore and junior seasons, per 247Sports, emerging as arguably the most physically dominant player in the nation. Hand nearly grades out as a perfect player (99.8/100) in 247Sports' composite ranks.
Besides his dominance in high school, Hand projects as an instant contributor on Saturdays. His initial burst is the best in the Class of 2014, he is a stout run defender, and he has the technique and awareness of a more experienced end. Though competition will be stout, one has a hard time seeing Hand not being a starter at some point in his freshman season.
As with all early commitments, Hand is not obligated yet by NCAA bylaw to honor his commitment to Alabama. His commitment is only verbal, which means it can change right up until National Signing Day on Feb. 5.
Nonetheless, Hand's decision Thursday makes him one of the first big dominoes of 2014 to drop and sets up the Crimson Tide for a stellar recruiting class.
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