The nation's number one recruit, Da'Shawn Hand, was in Columbia over the weekend on an unofficial visit. Based on everything that's come out of Hand's camp, it was an extremely positive experience. Hand got to spend a lot of time with the coaches and was thoroughly impressed. He also got to spend some time with Jadeveon Clowney, who Hand would be replacing at the DE position if he were to choose Carolina. Hand had a lot of good things to say about the nation's current standout at Hand's position. Lastly, Hand, who is a bit of a rarity among players of his caliber in his commitment to academic excellence, got to spend some time with a USC faculty member talking about some of the programs Hand's interested in.
Hand, a VA native, currently has us in his top five along with VT, Michigan, 'Bama, and Florida. VT and Michigan reportedly have the early lead. All things considered, it will be a major upset if we manage to land Hand. It's one thing to land the top player in the country when that player goes to high school an hour up I77, but for Carolina to lure a VA native away from the hometown Hokies as well as powerhouse programs like 'Bama and Michigan would be a feat. That said, we're in the mix right now. Hand has to be impressed by the work our defense has done in recent years, and given that he's a high-character kid, I think he would fit in well with the current crop of players, who seem so much stronger in that regard than the teams of a decade or so ago. Of course, VT and Michigan have a lot to offer in these regards, as well, but if we can stay in it with Hand, you just never know. Getting him on campus in November for the Florida or Clemson games might hold water with him.
Regardless, just the fact that he's considering us should be deemed progress. It used to be an endeavor to get the best in-state players to take us seriously. Now, after winning 31 games in the past three seasons and producing a crop of big-time stars, we're getting a close look from an out-of-state standout who has offers from every powerhouse in the country. Brand matters, and ours is improving.