Hand-icapping Da'Shawn: Academics a Big Key

That Woodbridge (Va.) DE Da'Shawn Hand trimmed his list of favorites by two schools this morning didn't come as much of a shock. That Virginia Tech was one of the teams cut absolutely did. The nation's #1 defensive end phoned GoBlueWolverine this morning to explain the reasoning behind the surprising move.

Da'Shawn Hand has long maintained that relationships would be among the most significant factors in his recruitment.  That’s why cultivating connections with his would-be coaches has been one of his chief objectives.  However, that wasn’t his only focus.  He also spent time assessing the academic fit of his respective suitors, and after his most recent deliberations made two more cuts.

“It was Virginia Tech and South Carolina,” Hand said regarding his latest eliminations.  “This is all about academics, for real. Virginia Tech… they don’t have a Sports Marketing program.  South Carolina… their professor really didn’t wow me. (South Carolina) was an all right visit and Coach Deke (Adams) is a great coach, but the professor really didn’t get to me.”

Of the two cuts the Hokies sudden demise is the unmistakable shocker.  Virginia Tech is the school closest to home, it’s the campus with which he is most familiar, and it possesses the coaching staff with which he has the longest standing relationship.  Ultimately, though, the combination of all of those attributes wasn’t enough to help it clear the obvious academic hurdle.

“Virginia Tech… it was hard man,” said Hand exasperatingly. “Bud Foster is my favorite coach.  I’ve got (a great deal of) respect for all of them... The Virginia Tech coaches and Bud Foster and the South Carolina coaches and Deke.  They’re great guys.”

With two favorites now off the list the outlook has definitely gotten rosier for the remaining leaderboard triumvirate of Alabama, Florida, and Michigan.  There were distinct academic features for each school that helped them make the cut.

“Bama… when I went there it was the engineering dean,” Hand explained.  “He is a football guy.  At the time he told me about the 25 million dollar project they were doing last summer, and that was just amazing.  On top of that, being a football guy is always a plus because of the academic support that you’ll get.”

“Then with Florida I heard it’s a great degree.   I’ve got to go down there for myself and check it out.  (The Gators surviving the cut) was just my interest in them.  Will Muschamp, Brad Lawing… that defensive coaching staff is just crazy.  I’ve just got to get out there for that."

“Then Michigan… that sports marketing professor blew me, my dad, and the coaches away.  He had me wanting to sign up right then and there.”

The Woodbridge star raved about numerous interactions in the aftermath of his visit to Ann Arbor, but it was indeed his time with Sports Management professor Mark Rosentraub that may have left the most indelible mark.

“That guy was blowing us away,” Hand told GoBlueWolverine back in March.  “The things he was talking about... I just wanted to sit there in the class.  Man! Oh my goodness… I just want to listen to him.  He is good guy to be around.  To hear him talk was really amazing.  He knew his stuff.  The coolest things was when you walk in he has a bunch of hats from different professional teams, and all those teams are teams that he has helped build their stadiums and stuff.  It was cool.”

With his list now pared to a manageable point, Hand plans to put recruiting on the backburner.  Even so, Michigan is still working hard to convince him to make his way back to the Great Lake State next month for its annual Barbecue at the Big house.

“(The Michigan coaches) talked to me about it,” stated Hand.  “Right now I don’t know.  Right now I’m just focused on enjoying the summer and I’m taking my officials to those schools.  Then I’ve got two outside teams looking in… you know me (laughter).  USC and LSU (will also get officials).”

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