Da'Shawn Hand is a five-star defensive end. His finalists are Michigan, Alabama and Florida. (Photo courtesy of Sam Webb)
The national spotlight will be on Ann Arbor Saturday night when historic rivals Michigan and Notre Dame square off once again under the lights. Sitting among the capacity crowd at the Big House will be nearly 40 of the Wolverines’ most coveted football and basketball recruits.
Leading the way on the football side of things will be Woodbridge (Va.) defensive end Da'Shawn Hand. The five-star prospect’s primary objectives during his official visit will to get a feel for game day atmosphere and how well he fits in with his prospective teammates. If the contest and all that surrounds it impresses him as much as the coaching and academic elements did during his prior trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan’s already enviable position may receive yet another boost. The Maize and Blue has been a fixture on his list of favorites for months along with Florida and Alabama. Recently he formalized that trio’s status on his final list.
“I’m down to those three,” Hand told Fox Sports Next. “I’m going to try to take officials to Alabama and Florida too.”
Speculation that Michigan holds the lead for the talented youngster has run rampant in recent months, but through it all he has chosen to stay mum regarding his leanings.
“That’s my thing -- I let everybody think what they want," said Hand to Fox Sports Next. "They can make all the predictions in the world, but only I know.”
“I’m going to make my decision on Nov. 14 at my high school."
Southfield senior defensive end Malik McDowell has been just as determined to not tip his hand. The four-star prospect will also be in attendance Saturday, but his will be an unofficial visit. That will be the first time in weeks that the 6-6, 285-pounder dedicates any significant attention to his recruitment. He has been busy concentrating on his more immediate goals of getting further acclimated to his new team and helping it win a state championship.
“I’ve got to stay focused,” McDowell stated. “I will take some unofficials though.”
And to those wondering if a commitment might come this weekend, McDowell made clear his official visit plan.
“I will take all five.”
There will be a number of Michigan's commitments on hand doing their collective best to convince McDowell and Hand to speed up their respective processes, but neither appears likely to do so.
The same can be said for the plethora of highly regarded juniors slated to visit. Headlining that group will be four four-star prospects that already hold Michigan offers – St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell, Cincinnati St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard, Fayetteville (N.Y.) Manilus tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and Saginaw Heritage wide receiver/defensive back Brian Cole.
Among the other notables will be two highly ranked Virginians that are making their way up with Hand. Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle and four-star Woodbridge (Va.) Hylton offensive tackle Matthew Burrell. Both have lengthy offer sheets, but neither currently includes Michigan. That is largely a function of the dearth of available scholarships in the 2015 class. That said, the Wolverines’ interest could intensify in the weeks and months following the trip to Ann Arbor.
Over on the basketball side of things, John Beilein and company will be hosting three official visitors -- Fort Myers (Fla.) Bishop Verot center Ricky Doyle (who is already committed to Michigan), Portland (Ore.) Columbia Christian small forward Kameron Chatman, and Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy forward Donte Grantham.
Chatman attended Beilein’s college practice camp in late June, and before he made his way back to the West Coast received a Michigan offer. Now the nation’s No. 23 prospect is down to Arizona, Connecticut, Michigan, Oregon and USC. Though he publicly claims no favorites from that group, the Wolverines appear to be in especially good shape.
"Michigan has probably been in there longer than anybody and that's because coach Beilein has known me since I was in college playing and I've gotten to know coach (Jeff) Meyer more over the last year," Chatman’s father Canaan told FOX Sports Next.
"The tradition of Michigan is what stands out to us. We like the conference, especially the toughness of it. We're not looking for adversity, but we want him to be challenged. We feel his best basketball is definitely ahead of him. He's going to put in the work, and everything going on right now in the Midwest is attractive.
"We like the style of play with four out, how he'll be able to handle the ball and push it. Last year, Duke and Michigan were tied with the most national television games. You can turn on CBS on a Sunday and watch a Michigan game. I think it's a great fit for Kameron and he likes it."
Grantham will be assessing if the fit for him is just as great during his first trip to Ann Arbor. The former Martinsburg (W.Va.) high standout is doing a postgrad year at Hargrave and has already seen positive returns in the form of a burgeoning offer list. He now holds scholarships from Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, Miami, Texas, West Virginia and numerous others. Michigan’s name could soon be added to the ledger.
“He kind of came out of nowhere as a senior in high school,” Fox Sports Next recruiting analyst Brian Snow said. “Not too many people knew about him. I know I sure didn’t. I started to hear buzz about him, and then he kind of committed to West Virginia for literally about 20 minutes. Then he kind of decided that wasn’t what he wanted to do and that he was going to play the AAU season instead. That’s what he did and it has worked out well for him. He’s a big wing who’s a really good athlete, who can get to the rim, can handle it pretty well, and is becoming a decent shooter. It just keeps happening for him. You have to like the upside of Donte.
“I think clearly he could fit that (Glenn Robinson) role. He might even start out in that role and develop into more of a three-man because he’s more skilled than a guy like Glenn is with the dribble. I think certainly think he could start as a stretch-four, and then as time goes on he might be able to be a big three man who is versatile enough to play both positions.”
As is the case with football, the 2015 contingent of basketball prospects will also be impressive. Headlining the crew will be four-star La Porte (Ind.) La Lumiere shooting guard Jalen Coleman and four-star Des Plaines (Ill.) Stevenson point guard Jalen Brunson. Both received Michigan offers over the summer, but each appears intent on prolonging their respective recruitments.
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His Michigan recruiting column appears every week at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.