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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Academics A Focus For Nation’s Top Recruit

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxThe nation’s top football recruit will consider more than just football when he makes his college decision.

That fact became clear this week when defensive end Da’Shawn Hand from Woodbridge (Va.) Senior High School announced his top three schools are Alabama, Florida and Michigan. Missing was Virginia Tech, once considered by many analysts to be the favorite to land Hand.

What took Virginia Tech and South Carolina, another school Hand was considering, out of the running? It was academics, not football.

“I eliminated Virginia Tech because they don’t offer a sports marketing program,” Hand said, according to SB Nation. “And with South Carolina, the professor just didn’t wow us. I have the utmost respect for Virginia Tech and South Carolina and their coaches and wish them the best of luck.”

It’s a strong statement by Hand, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 prospect by Rivals. Prospects often mention their education as an important factor in their recruitment but rarely eliminate schools so early in the process simply based on academic concern.

That’s what helped the top three schools Hand is considering.

“At Michigan, the (sports marketing) program was so impressive, I wanted to sign up right there,” he said. “During my visit to Alabama, I met the dean of their (sports marketing) program, and it’s an excellent program. He actually played football and he gets it. And I haven’t been to Florida yet, but I’ve heard their defensive coaching staff and that defensive line with coach (Brad) Lawing and coach D.J. Dunkin is amazing. And Alabama’s engineering program was working on a $25 million project when I was down there.”

As impressive as it is that Hand is focused on academics, the story will end up being the impact he can make as a football player.

Michigan is considered the favorite to land Hand, according to analysts at 247Sports. Among the analysts making their prediction, 55 percent predict Hand will pick Michigan. But not everyone has updated their predictions, with 12 percent of the votes still going to Virginia Tech.

JC Shurburtt was one analyst to switch his prediction to Alabama, citing a “source” as the reason for picking the Crimson Tide. And there’s plenty of time for things to change between now and the day Hand signs with a school. But one thing is for sure: Hand will consider more than just football.


Williams chooses Kentucky

Add Stanley Williams to the growing list of prospects who want to play for Kentucky.

The running back from George Walton Academy in Bethlehem, Ga., committed to the Wildcats on Thursday. He previously committed to Georgia and held offers from schools such as Auburn, LSU, Missouri, South Carolina, Clemson and Wisconsin.

“The atmosphere (at Kentucky) is unbelievable!!!” Williams wrote in a text message to Rivals.

Kentucky’s success in recruiting is pretty unbelievable, too. Williams’ commitment to the Wildcats follows pledges earlier this week from Ohio safeties Mike Edwards and Darius West and Crestview, Fla., defensive end Denzel Ware.

Kentucky’s 2014 class, which has 16 commitments, is ranked No. 3 in the nation by Rivals. Texas A&M (No. 1) and Tennessee (No. 2) are the only schools ahead of Kentucky.

It’s clear coach Mark Stoops has elevated the Wildcats’ recruiting to a level the program has never seen. The highest a Kentucky class has ever been ranked after signing day is 29th, which was accomplished by Stoops in February. He looks to be in great position to shatter that record by Feb. 5.

Kentucky has plenty to sell as it puts together the rest of the class. The Wildcats have eight commitments from the state of Ohio, a critical area to their success on the recruiting trail. And they’ve picked up pledges from other talent-rich areas, including Stone Mountain, Ga., and Olney, Md.

Then there’s Drew Barker. The highly-touted quarterback from Conner High School in Burlington, Ky., helped give Kentucky some in-state credibility last month when he chose the Wildcats over South Carolina and Tennessee. Now he’s trying his best to help Kentucky on the recruiting trail.


There’s Georgia’s recruiting momentum

It’s only been a week since this writer brought up Georgia’s need for recruiting momentum. And the Bulldogs appear to have it.

The latest good news for Georgia came Thursday when cornerback Malkom Parrish from Brooks County High School in Quitman, Ga., committed to the Bulldogs. He chose Georgia over Georgia Tech and held offers from Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and North Carolina.

Parrish told that Mark Richt and his staff gave Georgia the edge.

“The coaching staff let me know that I can’t go wrong with Georgia,” Parrish said. “They send many people to the NFL and they also have a great education. I think that is the place for me.”

Parrish, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 7 cornerback by Rivals, gives Georgia nine commitments for the 2014 class. His pledge follows the commitment of running back Cedartown (Ga.) High School’s Nick Chubb, who’s the highest-rated running back in the state of Georgia by Rivals.


Middle school madness continues

It was a busy week on the middle school recruiting trail for college coaches.

First, Southern California received a commitment from eighth-grade wide receiver Nathan Tilford from Upland, Calif.

I was speechless,” Tilford told “I said yes right away. That has been my dream school. This is where I wanted to go, and I made it here.”

Making it “here” has to mean to the point of receiving an offer, which is far from official for the class of 2017 standout. But he’s not the first middle school prospect to receive an offer from a college or even commit to one.

Not to be outdone by its rival, UCLA offered a scholarship to quarterback Lindell Stone, an eighth-grader from Southlake, Texas. He was grateful for the offer but also added some perspective to it.

“We’re really not focused on recruiting right now,” Stone said. “We’re more focused on getting on the field at high school and helping a team win a championship, but this is big. It’s finally showing how hard I’ve worked.”

Coaches are working harder than ever to recruit prospects before they reach high school.

Cornerback Jairus Brent won’t be in high school until 2015, but he already has a scholarship offer. Kentucky offered the seventh-grader from New Albany, Ind., earlier this week.

How big was the news when Brent, a member of the 2018 class, found out he had received a scholarship offer?

“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “It’s just an offer.”




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