Michigan's top remaining prospect in the class of 2014, five-star WDE Da'Shawn Hand, visits Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide this weekend. It has long been assumed that Michigan leads for the top-ranked defender, with many going as far as calling him a lock to end up in Ann Arbor. While I don't assume Hand to be a lock, I do think he's a very heavy lean to Michigan.
Hand's visit to Alabama doesn't worry me too much. Yes, the Tide have an awesome coaching staff comprised of men capable of putting Hand into the first round of the NFL draft like countless Alabama players in recent years, but Alabama's advantages start and stop right there. Academics mean more to Hand than the average five-star recruit, and Michigan has a much heavier advantage in academic prestige than Alabama has in coaching talent.
Relationships shouldn't be overlooked here, either. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has long been known as one of the best closers in college football recruiting, and Brady Hoke has a way of connecting with lineman on both sides of the ball. Da'Shawn has publicly stated that Michigan boasts his favorite coaching staff on more than one occasion.
The only way I see this trip affecting Michigan is if Alabama somehow convinces Hand that he truly wants to be an engineer, and that Michigan's engineering school and its football program are hardly two things that mesh. I was a mathematics major at Michigan, but there were still times when my engineering friends' lives were a living hell compared to mine. Da'Shawn was blown away by Michigan's sport management presentation, and it would be wise for him to apply to that school over the school of engineering if he wants to live a somewhat manageable lifestyle during his time in college. There are plenty of kids in Ann Arbor struggling with engineering classes alone.
Overall, Michigan fans counting on seeing Da'Shawn in the maize and blue next year shouldn't fret over this visit. Nick Saban is a shark in the football world, but even he probably won't have what it takes to overtake Michigan's lead this weekend.