Down to Florida, Michigan and Alabama for some time, one of the most coveted prospects in America made his decision on Thursday afternoon.
Da'Shawn Hand, a consensus five-star defensive end talent, selected Nick Saban's Crimson Tide on his 18th birthday.
The 6-foot-5, 262-pounder out of Woodbridge (Va.) High School is a four-year starter with the ability to play the run or the pass well in the SEC. He is currently ranked as the No. 2 defensive end prospect in America, behind Lorenzo Carter.
With 23 commitments on board, the defensive end and outside linebacker board shrinks just a little with this pickup for the Tide.
The spotlight on the board now shifts to a pair of additional five-star rush talents, Rashaan Evans and the aforementioned Carter. Evans is the No. 1 outside linebacker on Scout and Carter the nation's top defensive end.
Speculation as to which prospect is higher on Alabama's board has fluctuated in recent months, with Evans' ascent and Carter's slight descent from one of the top two or three prospects in the country.
Evans just earned his fifth star of late after a monster senior season at Auburn (Ala.) High School, in which he plays end, linebacker, running back, Wildcat quarterback, receiver and tight end. The athlete can do it all at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, and his recruitment is picking up steam as such.
Evans has kept things close to the vest.
Alabama is in the mix along with Georgia, UCLA and hometown Auburn. Each has had him on campus before, and he was in town for the Alabama - LSU game most recently. Georgia is making the biggest push for his commitment and signature outside of Alabama, but he's also taken a liking to AU's surprise season and UCLA has recruited the state of Alabama better than any West Coast team of late.
Evans plans on making a decision closer to January, and potentially at the Under Armour All-America game. He's yet to take any official visit within the SEC, and still hopes to do so.
Then there is Carter, the Norcross (Ga.) standout, who is looking at in-state UGA, Florida, Florida State and LSU in addition to Alabama. He's been less clear-cut about his favorites, though Florida, Georgia and Alabama are frequently mentioned by him, and his visit patterns often switch. He was last in Athens for the game against Appalachian State on Saturday, a weekend in which he was originally scheduled to visit Tuscaloosa.
The 6-foot-5, 232-pounder has electric speed off of the edge and incredible length, that he uses to his advantage, causing plenty to evaluators to refer to him as a "freak" more times than not. Still, he hasn't quite had the same impact as a senior that Evans, Hand or that similar skill-setted Alabama commitment Christian Miller, a four-star, has.
Carter is another not looking to make a choice any time soon, so Alabama will likely look to position itself highly on both prospects' lists, and prepare for official visit plans to develop for each. Word is that Carter's official visit to Alabama will be in January, likely pointing to a decision close to national signing day, the first week of February.
The most significant factor in landing a guy like Hand is his versatility. He has the skill-set to play as a traditional edge rusher, or even as a traditional 5-technique in Alabama's scheme. The plan from the staff, which may not be fully developed yet, will be important in how they may attack Evans and Carter down the stretch, as well as other defensive end prospects.
Should Hand be pegged, again by Saban and his staff and not Scout.com, as an edge rusher then maybe the board will dictate which one Alabama pursues the most between Evans and Carter. Should he be considered a guy more suited to play with his hand down, as a 3-4 end type (ala Dee Liner), with the frame to bulk up, then the staff can continue to pursue each five-star in a similar fashion. Spots in the class of 2014 are limited, so the staff decision is a monster deal.
Either way, Alabama is in good shape to not only sign Hand, but to bring in another five-star on the edge that has the chance to tandem with him at the next level or perhaps play alongside him if the staff feels his skill-set is as versatile as we do.
Other Names to Know
* Four-star defensive end Myles Garrett, who committed to Texas A&M of late.
* Three-star outside linebacker Vincent Jackson, who was once poised to place Alabama atop his list but interest from both sides seems to have faded of late.