The wait is over. In a live announcement broadcast on Yahoo!, NBC Sports Network and Washington Post Live on Thursday, Woodbridge (Va.) High defensive end Da'Shawn Hand verbally committed to Alabama over Michigan and Florida. Hand, the top-ranked recruit in the class of 2014, according to Rivals.com, is 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds. He had an offer sheet about as long as Santa's naughty and nice list.
"Why not go where there's a great possibility that you could win a national championship?" Hand said shortly after announcing his decision.
The commitment is nothing new for Alabama, which routinely lands blue-chip recruits regardless of position. Heck, I bet Nick Saban exclusively uses Five Star® notebooks. Hand is one of those rare prospects who could make an impact from day one, however, much like Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche did at the start of the 2013 season.
Hand boasts elite size and strength and can get off the line quickly. According to SB Nation recruiting expert Bud Elliott, he also has the frame to put on more weight.
Playing at 280 pounds as a 4-3 defensive end isn't all that out of the ordinary, but being able to do so with the incredible quickness makes Hand quite rare indeed.
Hand's highlight tape is excellent because on many of the clips, he is in the backfield before the opposing offensive lineman is even out of his stance. Hand plays with great natural power, and while he's not properly described as "raw," he does have a lot of room to improve his technique, which is scary because he is already very good.
Hand weighed a number of factors before making his decision, and he maintained that academics were a top priority. During his interview on Sports Dash before picking his hat, he mentioned being impressed with a professor at Michigan, Alabama's earthquake simulator and Florida's hurricane simulator on his school visits.
The Gators' recent struggles might have knocked Florida out of the running. Meanwhile, even though the Wolverines whiffed on Hand, Michigan still has cornerback Jabrill Peppers, Rivals.com's second-ranked prospect in the 2014 class, in the fold. Alabama sits atop Rivals.com's 2014 class rankings and now has two five-star and 15 four-star commits.