Da'Shawn Hand

Suspense builds on eve of nation’s top recruit’s announcement


Tomorrow serves as D-Day for the nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2014.  Will Da’Shawn Hand, um, hand Brady Hoke and Michigan the top two overall prospects in that class, or will one of SEC teams poach a Virginia product long thought to be (somewhat) ticketed for the Big Ten school?

That, of course, is the great unknown, with the five-star defensive end set to make his announcement at noon ET on NBC Sports Network’s SportsDash with Yahoo! Sports and on Rivals.com. Barring an unexpected development over the next 24 hours or so, Hand’s three finalists for a verbal commitment will be favorite Michigan along with Alabama and Florida.

National recruiting expert Mike Farrell of Rivals.com, which will share in the announcement via an Internet stream, reported earlier today that this may actually be a two-team race, writing that “Florida’s game atmosphere and fans calling for Muschamp’s head eliminated them.”  Hand visited Gainesville — he’s also visited Ann Arbor and Tuscaloosa the past two months — and was in attendance for the Gators’ 31-17 loss to Vanderbilt, a drubbing that cranked up the heat on head coach Will Muschamp’s seat.

On-field performance, however, likely doesn’t matter as much to Hand.  Farrell indicated in an interview last week that academics will play the biggest role in the defensive lineman’s decision; that continues to be the theme on the eve of the announcement as Farrell predicts “[i]n a race that comes down to academics as much as athletics, the Wolverines win this one and secure No. 1 to go along with No. 2 Jabrill Peppers.”

In late May, Peppers, a cornerback from New Jersey, announced that he had verbally committed to the Wolverines over a group of finalists that included LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State, home-state Rutgers and Stanford.  Since then, Peppers has served as a de facto recruiter in UM’s pursuit of hand.

In a video posted earlier this week, Peppers made one final Maize & Blue pitch to his buddy.

“Hey, D, listen bro, we need you. You make our class a lot stronger. We have a lot of great recruits on the list already, and you can make us that much stronger. Come get that degree and play top-notch ball in the biggest stadium in college football.”

So, where will Hand ultimately land, at least verbally?  Tune in tomorrow and find out.  After checking your local listings — or entering your zip code HERE — of course.

(Photo credit: Woodbridge (Va.) High School)

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.

Unitas Award whittles watch list in half down to 15

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for an open receiver against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season?  Watch lists are being whittled.

The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior.  The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.

The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).

The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten.  The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).

Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah