Da'Shawn Hand Commits to Alabama: Where Do Michigan, Florida Turn Now?

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIINovember 14, 2013


Alabama head coach Nick Saban pulled another rabbit out of his hat by locking down the verbal commitment of No. 1 strong-side defensive end Da'Shawn Hand on Thursday afternoon.

But coaches, fans and analysts weren't the only ones with their eyes locked in to the NBC Sports Network, where Hand announced his commitment to 'Bama.

Several other defensive line prospects were also waiting for the Woodbridge, Va., native to knock down the first domino in a line of recruits who will now move one step closer to their decisions. While the Crimson Tide appear to be set after pulling in the No. 4 overall prospect and the top defensive lineman in the 247Sports composite rankings, his other finalists, Michigan and Florida, will now have to move on to the next target.

Despite losing Hand, Michigan still has another blue chip on its radar, composite 4-star Malik McDowell. The Detroit native is likely to stay in state and choose between Michigan State and UM, though he is seen as almost a lock for the Wolverines, as 100 percent of the forecasters in the 247Sports crystal ball see him heading to Ann Arbor.

The loss of Hand, who was thought to be a Michigan lean, will certainly hurt. But if McDowell chooses the maize and blue, it will certainly ease the pain.

If McDowell heads to UM as expected, it will seal up an excellent defensive line class for the Wolverines. They already claim verbal commitments from two composite 4-stars on the defensive front: defensive tackle Bryan Mone and defensive end weak-side Lawrence Marshall.

The commitment of McDowell would also make for a dominant in-state class for the Wolverines. With Marshall and receiver Drake Harris already in tow, McDowell would make three of the top four in-state recruits Wolverines.

While UM will move on to McDowell, UF will join the next prominent defensive end battle for the No. 1 weak-side defensive end, Lorenzo Carter. At 6'5", 232 pounds, Carter projects more as a hybrid rushing end/outside linebacker than the 6'4", 254-pound Hand. 

Florida and Alabama are both involved in the recruitment of Carter, a Norcross, Ga., native, and they will try to pull him from the home-state Bulldogs. Carter was originally believed to be an Alabama lean, but has swung in the direction of Georgia after a recent visit, as seen in his 247Sports crystal ball projections.

That came before Hand's commitment to Alabama, so the door could be even further opened for UF and UGA now that Hand will join the Crimson Tide. While the news surrounding Hand's recruitment has been the biggest buzz on the recruiting scene lately, it will be soon replaced with the Carter saga.

Like Michigan, the Gators already boast a strong base of defensive line recruits in this class. Khairi Clark, a 4-star defensive tackle, is already in as one of their top commitments for this class. Additionally, they claim a 3-star defensive end, Justus Reed, making their defensive line situation less dire.

Running the 4-3 base defense that features four linemen, Florida also has room for another body on the inside. For that void, they are looking at Carter, as well as composite 4-star Thomas Holley.

The UF coaching staff paid a visit to the Brooklyn native in September and, while many predictors in the 247Sports crystal ball believe he is headed to Penn State, a lot could still change—especially now that the Hand domino has fallen.

Back on the outside, Florida is also likely to make a run at defensive end Lorenzo Featherston. The composite 4-star end from Greensboro, N.C., has taken several visits to Gainesville and will be one of the Gators' top targets now that Hand is officially out of hand. 

UF also has a potential insurance policy in composite 3-star Cory Jones, though the Gators haven't offered the Washington, D.C., native yet.

Florida is already at No. 11 in the 247Sports composite team rankings with just a 15-man class—and the Gators still have a number of targets left on their board.

Michigan is in a similar situation at No. 10 overall with 16 commitmentsand many more to come.

So while the loss of Hand will sting for a bit, both coaching staffs will keep a short-term memory, moving on to the next one.