Da'Shawn Hand deserves consideration as the nation's No. 1 overall prospect in the 2014 recruiting class. The dominant defensive end has dismantled offensive attacks throughout his high school career.
The 5-star recruit announced live on NBC Sports Network at noon ET Thursday that he will suit up for Alabama, providing the Crimson Tide with a defender well-equipped to live up to lofty expectations in Tuscaloosa. The 6'4", 254-pound playmaker is ranked the country's top defensive end and No. 4 overall recruit by 247Sports.
Hand holds offers from Florida, Alabama, LSU, Stanford and Ohio State, among many other BCS elite. We break down the tape and explain how he became such a coveted prospect.
|School||Woodbridge High School|
|Size||6'4", 254 pounds|
|Rankings||No. 4 overall prospect, No. 1 defensive end, No. 1 player in Virginia|
|Key Offers||Michigan, Florida, LSU, USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame|
|Commitment||Alabama (Nov. 14, 2013)|
Hand ranks among the most disruptive defenders to emerge at the high school level in recent years. He has an impact on every play, even if it's just how an offense reacts to his presence.
Take a peek at his statistics and it's easy to see how productive Hand has been throughout his career. He tallied 227 tackles, including 59 for loss, and 40 sacks through his first three high school seasons, according to 24Sports.
With 37 sacks in his past two seasons, let's start with Hand's abilities as an edge-rusher. He is a menace in pursuit of the quarterback, demanding double-teams on a routine basis.
Hand is clocked at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per 247Sports, so he's a relative matchup nightmare against even the most nimble offensive tackles. He gets an excellent jump off the snap, and proceeds with instinctive mid-play awareness.
At the point of attack, Hand is aggressive and tactful. He consistently splits double-team blocking schemes with sheer power and elite quickness, while churning his feet and maintaining proper pad level.
In the video still below, you can see him bust through blocks by the right guard and right tackle in time to impede the progress of a ball-carrier in the backfield.
His tackling technique is predominately polished, particularly when it comes to wrapping up. Hand uses an exceptional wingspan to corral his target and finishes violently, frequently jarring the ball loose.
His angle of pursuit to the quarterback is tremendous. Hand aims for a passer's midsection and identifies when a quarterback is in the midst of pulling the ball down and scrambling.
He is relentless when giving chase in the open field. Unlike most defensive lineman, Hand is able to keep up with offensive weapons at the second and third level.
Even when he's too late to rack up a quarterback sack, he finds a way to disturb the timing of a play. Hand is an elite leaper and, when coupled with his tall frame, that creates major problems for a passer.
In the video still below, Hand goes airborne to bat down a pass attempt behind the line of scrimmage.
You really have to nitpick to identify flaws in Hand's arsenal, considering the kind of elite talent he possesses. There are few glaring holes in his game, but you can certainly find some facets that need sharpening.
Hand can occasionally become fixated on the offensive backfield and allow a play to get by him. The aggressiveness is great, but patience also plays a role.
He must lower his center of gravity at the point of impact on tackles. His athleticism is so much greater than current opponents that he is able to stand tall and essentially tackle with his upper body.
That can't become a habit in college, where running backs are too powerful to bring down without driving them down with your legs.
It will be an upset if Hand doesn't at least crack the rotation as a freshman in Tuscaloosa. His physicality and attitude are college-ready and Alabama loves utilizing defensive playmakers off the outside edge.
Head coach Nick Saban must determine how he'd like to use Hand. If he want to rush him from stand-up sets or occasionally drop him back in coverage, then Hand is likely to remain close to his current weight.
However, if the Crimson Tide want his versatility to shine along the line's interior, then you could see Hand pack on 20-30 pounds early in his collegiate career. He would be a force at tackle if he plays somewhere in the 275-pound range.
Hand adds to a special recruiting class at Alabama. He is one of many classmates who could ultimately emerge as perennial All-American candidates before the NFL comes calling.