The top recruit in the 2014 recruiting class, Da’Shawn Hand decided to cut his list down from five to three and ended up parting ways with both the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Virginia Tech Hokies. Hand’s decision to eliminate the Hokies is a ground-breaking one, as Virginia Tech was viewed as the favorite to land the in-state, Woodbridge prospect. Instead, two SEC powers in the Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators are left standing with the storied Michigan Wolverines as the three teams left in the race to land Hand, who is undoubtedly the best football prospect in the 2014 class.
Hand told both eliminated schools (Virginia Tech and South Carolina) last night of his decision, according to 247Sports analyst JC Shurburtt, who has the complete scoop on Hand’s cut. Michigan, Alabama, and Florida all seem to be on equal footing right now, but that is to be expected since Hand just made the cut. But Shurburtt talked to sources from various schools involved in Hand’s recruitment, and different people are telling Shurburtt different things about where Hand will go.
Really, all three schools are great choices for Da’Shawn Hand, and all three are legendary programs. But, in the end, I feel like Michigan’s academics will set the Wolverines apart, and this is something Shurburtt mentioned as something that Hand is particularly high on with regards to Michigan. The Wolverines impressed Hand on an unofficial visit in the spring, and their mix of stature and academics is something that really only Florida can offer. Alabama is the biggest program of the three and is thus squarely in the running, but there seems to be something about Michigan in Hand’s recruitment.
That “something” is most likely the coaching staff, and Shurburtt tells us that Hand believes Michigan has the best coaching staff of all the schools he has been recruited by. Recruits build bonds with coaches, and I think this is what will put Michigan over the edge for Hand. It is an incredibly close call between all three schools and it is still very early; we are talking about the No. 1 recruit here.
For what it’s worth, the experts on 247Sports are mostly leaning to Michigan, as over half of them have the Wolverines as the team to tab Hand. Next up is Alabama, which has about one-fourth of the Crystal Ball experts choosing Nick Saban and the Tide. Meanwhile, the Gators have just 4% of the vote, but things will slightly change since some have not changed their picks from Virginia Tech. However, I don’t expect the general prediction order of Michigan, Alabama, and Florida to change, as this is clearly defined. I agree with the experts that Michigan is the team to beat with Alabama and Florida in second and third respectively, and it is telling that Michigan is the only school to have an official visit scheduled from Hand.