Da'Shawn Hand, a consensus 5-star prospect and disruptive force on the defensive line, remains one of the premier uncommitted recruits in the country. The 6'4", 250-pound Woodbridge, Va. star is considered the fourth-best player in the nation and the No. 1 strong-side end.
Hand has been heavily recruited throughout his high school career. The dynamic defender's blend of speed (4.60 40-yard-dash) and natural power piques the interest of programs in every corner of the country.
His lengthy list of scholarship offers features Stanford, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, LSU and Notre Dame. In June, Hand trimmed his list down to a trio of schools.
According to the Washington Post, he named Alabama, Florida and Michigan as the final squads under consideration. The three powerhouse programs remain alive in a recruiting process that started with 94 offers.
As Hand prepares to embark on his senior season at Woodbridge High School and national signing day draws near, let's examine which option is likely to lead to instant opportunities.
The defensive virtuoso is physically ready for the rigors of the college game and could fit in a variety of systems, with room to add 20-30 pounds to his trim frame.
The Crimson Tide have a stacked 2014 defensive class. Linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton, Zach Whitley and Christian Miller are each 4-star recruits and Nick Saban's latest haul would look spectacular even if Hand doesn't hop on the bandwagon.
However, the addition of Hand would give the two-time defending national champions yet another defensive stalwart to build around up front.
Saban's celebrated 3-4 scheme relies on relentless pursuit at the line of scrimmage and Hand would have a chance to jump into the fray as a freshman.
Starting end Ed Stinson is a senior and his departure would present an opportunity for Hand to compete for playing time with a collection of elite talent. Alabama has enormous depth at end, so the journey to the top of the depth chart wouldn't be a cake walk.
Hand would probably need to bulk up to 270 pounds in order to withstand his role as a 3-4 end. However, he could also be implemented as a stand-up edge-rusher in the mold of Von Miller.
Florida implements a four-man front in which Hand could do damage at the 5-technique or extended further out along the edge. The Gators are young at end, devoid of any juniors or seniors on the two-deep depth chart.
Regardless of what occurs in Gainesville this autumn, that youth signals an open competition on the line.
Hand, who still has room to become sounder in his technique, would undoubtedly challenge for a starting role during his first training camp.
Florida welcomes in 2014 freshman end Tavin Bryan next fall. He's an underrated 6'5", 250-pound prospect from Wyoming who would also vie for time at strong-side defensive end.
The Gators give Hand a chance to take on an expansive part in an inexperienced defense. It would put his leadership skills to the test almost immediately.
If the Wolverines are able to land Hand and add him to a recruiting class that already features All-American safety Jabrill Peppers, people will expect national championship contention in Ann Arbor.
Michigan starts a senior and junior at defensive end this season and coordinator Greg Mattison is anxious to replenish a position that could use an infusion of youth.
Hand is the menace off the edge Michigan fans have been clamoring for and would complement current Wolverine players quite well considering the speed-oriented attack the squad exhibits. Hand must also consider that Michigan's 2014 class is headlined by Michael Ferns, an Ohio recruit ranked sixth nationally among inside linebackers.
That's a heavy dose of talent that Hand could dream of teaming up with for the next 3-4 years.
"I know Da'Shawn Hand scheduled his visit for November and I have a really good feeling about getting him," Peppers wrote in his enlightening USA Today blog. "I've definitely stressed to him how much we need him and how big of an impact he'd have on the defense that Coach Mattison runs."
There isn't a bad choice in the bunch, but Brady Hoke and the Wolverines have a special thing cooking in this 2014 class. Hand would provide the final ingredient and give Michigan top-tier national stars in the secondary (Peppers), linebacker corps (Ferns) and front line.
Among the three options, Michigan also has the most immediate need for a defensive end. Hand's bid for a starting job would be a bit more manageable in Ann Arbor.
He wouldn't be shying away from competition—just embracing the opportunity to grow up with an outstanding group of instant-impact freshmen. Michigan gives Hand the best chance for a monster campaign in his first collegiate season.
We'll find out his decision on Nov. 14, when he is scheduled to announce a commitment.
Recruit rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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