Virginia defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, a consensus five-star prospect in the class of 2014, will announce his college choice Thursday afternoon in a ceremony televised live on NBC Sports and streamed live online by Rivals.
Hand is considered the best defensive end in this class, and the best player in this class by Rivals. Rivals national analyst Mike Farrell slots him in behind Jadeveon Clowney when ranking Hand among the recent string of top defensive ends in the country — on a list that also includes Ronald Powell and Robert Nkemdiche.
Hand is considering Michigan, Florida, and Alabama, and is considered a heavy Michigan lean — his Crystal Ball has dozens of pundits weighing in, and 87 percent have predicted Hand will head to Ann Arbor. And I think that's where Hand is headed, too. Michigan was his leader early on, and never really lost that lead.
But Florida may have made itself more than a hat on the table last weekend, when Hand took his official visit, and done so despite losing its Homecoming game, and its first home game to Vanderbilt since the dust of World War II was still settling. Hand told The Gainesville Sun's Zach Abolverdi that his visit was "great," and that Florida actually opened his eyes to a new degree he wasn't previously considering.
"Florida also has tradition and academics. They have every degree you can imagine. They had engineering, they had sports management, and they had journalism and communications, which I didn’t know I was interested in until I visited there. I’m very happy I did."
Hand's a very smart kid, and it's been widely reported during this process that he's definitely factoring in academics — Michigan's sports marketing program and Alabama's engineering program make frequent appearances in Hand write-ups — so Florida giving him another thing to think about is a really cool feather in the cap of both the football program and the university.
Will that be enough for Hand to make the call for Florida? Probably not. But it's definitely not a bad thing to be a hat on a table for a five-star prospect as good and publicly acknowledged as Hand, who's been the subject of a great Washington Post series chronicling his senior year, and has been basically the only thing Rivals has been able to talk about this week.
Hand's recruitment is also a reminder that recruiting is a complex process that can differ wildly from person to person. Florida's ability to sell him and kids who are very different from him on its program is a testament to the skill of its recruiters.