Da'Shawn Hand, the 5-star strong-side defensive end from Virginia, has announced his top three. It's an exclusive list that features three of the best recruiting programs in the country.
Hand recently did an interview on the Smashmouth Radio Network. During said interview, he talked about his top three programs. Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com and Smashmouth tweeted the news:
The most notable program missing from this list is Virginia Tech, who appeared to have quite the "home-state advantage" with Hand during the early goings of his recruiting. The other school from his top five that didn't make the cut was South Carolina. Here's what he had to say about both schools, per Scarbinksy:
Da'Shawn Hand on Smashmouth: My top 3 is Alabama, Florida and Michigan.— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) June 12, 2013
Judging from those quotes, it would appear that education is a huge draw for Hand. Out of the three schools on his newly minted top three, that's the best news for Michigan.
Da'Shawn Hand on Smashmouth: South Carolina prof didn't wow me. Va Tech doesn't offer sports marketing.— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) June 12, 2013
Michigan is a traditional college football powerhouse, but it also has world-class academics. To that point, Scarbinsky tweeted that Hand really liked a sports marketing professor he met in Ann Arbor:
Brady Hoke and Co. are putting together a great recruiting class in 2014, and Hand could be one of the marquee players in it. Michigan already landed 5-star athlete Jabrill Peppers, and he along with Hand could be major additions to Michigan's defense. Those two alone could very well take the Wolverines to the next level in the Big Ten.
One more Da'Shawn Hand nugget: Said he was blown away by a Michigan sports marketing professor he met. Wants to talk to him again.— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) June 12, 2013
Final point for Michigan, check out this Tweet from Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com:
At least for now in this recruiting race, Michigan has to feel great about it's chances of landing the nation's top strong-side defensive end, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Da'Shawn Hand said he hasn't been to Alabama in around a year, hasn't gotten to Florida yet. Bodes well for Michigan early on.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) June 12, 2013
Don't be naive enough to count out Alabama, though, as Nick Saban is the best recruiter and coach in college football right now. Hand would have to put on some weight to play defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, but that's something that's not impossible, especially considering he's only a rising senior.
Alabama would provide him with the best chance to win a championship, and Saban's history of sending players to the NFL is unquestioned.
Florida may seem like the outlier on this list, but Will Muschamp and his staff have been great on the recruiting trail themselves. Florida's 2013 class was elite defensively, and the addition of Hand could eventually put its 2014 class in the same category. Overall, Florida's defense of the future will be extremely good, and the Gators should be contenders in the SEC. Contending in the SEC means contending for a national title, so Florida has a great pitch as well.
These three programs all have a lot to offer Hand, and he would bring just as much to the table for them.
One last tweet from Scarbinsky. He reports that Hand will take five official visits:
USC and LSU could be outliers in this race as well, so even though Hand has a top three without those two mentioned, keep an eye out for them—especially after those official visits.
Da'Shawn Hand on Smashmouth: Will take 5 officials. Alabama, Michigan, Florida, USC and LSU. That's the list. Won't change.— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) June 12, 2013
Where he commits is anybody's guess right now, but one thing is for certain: Wherever he does end up, Hand projects to be a game-changer.