Who's best? That eternal question always seems to emerge in every aspect of competition, and recruiting is no different, particularly with each year's class. Our early contender is defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, who everyone seems to be locking in as the can't-miss prospect.
Hand is part of a stacked recruiting class from the state of Virginia. The consensus five-star defensive end hails from Woodbridge (Va.) High. Hand stands at 6'5 and weighs in at 250 pounds. As of February, Hand reports offers from most major college football programs with over three dozen offers, including schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Stanford, USC and Virginia Tech.
Hand is currently ranked as the top overall recruit by 247 Sports (top defensive end, top prospect from Virginia, top everything). Rivals tends to agree with that assessment, as he also is ranked No. 1 overall on their board. Hand is also a five-star prospect by Scout and is considered their top defensive end, and also gets ranked overall on the ESPN Watchlist.
Bud Elliott, National Recruiting Analyst: Hand is special because of his size and speed combo. At 6'5 and 250 pounds, he has excellent length and the frame to add a lot of good weight. Hand could potentially play at 280 pounds. 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.
I first saw Hand in person in the summer of 2012 at an event for seniors. As the only junior defensive lineman, he did not seem out of place at all. Though he plays defensive tackle more for his high school, look for Hand to play defensive end in college.
Hand is also a bright person and has a good attitude. He should be a multi-year starter at whatever school he chooses, perhaps as a freshman. He is certainly one of the very best prospects in the class of 2014.
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