Rookie Spotlight: Brian Branch
By Johnathan Walker
With last year’s NFL Draft being defense heavy it looks to be switched this year being more offense heavy. With this being said it is very important to not forget some of the great defensive players going into the Draft. One you do not want to miss out on is the #1 S and his name is Brian Branch. He has played Corner, as well as Nickel during his time at Alabama. He played in 38 games throughout his college career racking up over 1600 snaps. He was a very reliable piece for Alabama’s Defense and will look to be a key piece on a NFL defense. Brian Branch ended his 2022 season with 90 total tackles, 58 solo tackles, 7 passers defended, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
With over 1,600 snaps Branch grew to being one of the best to read routes, he was also able to quickly close the gap on pass plays flying across the field. Over his time with Alabama Brian had some of the most tremendous growth in zone coverage arguably becoming the best cover Safety in college last season. Branch has also shown growth in man coverage, I think his biggest strength throughout his college career was his ability to tackle. He is not scared to get down and dirty, having major highlights with his ability to “Lay a Hat” (also known as a big hit).
As a Safety you must be able to have quick closing speed, which is something Brian Branch lacks slightly. During the NFL Combine he ran a 4.58, which is not good for a Safety. Branch has also shown to be hesitant when it comes to facing a blocker. However, he does make up for both of these weaknesses with being arguably the hardest hitting Safety in years. Another weakness for Brian is that he does not go for the interception very often, he rather swats the ball. This can and most likely will be coached out of him when he is selected in this year's NFL Draft.
My favorite Brian Branch game would have to be the 2022 All-State Sugar Bowl vs the Kansas State Wildcats. During this game Branch recorded 12 TOT, 11- Solo tackles, 1-Sack, and 1-INT. This game would be his biggest game of this year by far. Brian Branch is a big time player who will show up in big time games.
To me Brian Branch is the next Tyrann Mathieu from LSU. Tyrann was the biggest hitting safety in college football. Just like Tyrann, Brian can read offensive routes very well and can have good closing speed in coverage. The biggest comparison is no doubt the ability to make a highlight hit every tackle. Both players have been able to shock audiences with how quickly they can change a game with just one tackle. Both players had great coverage abilities, as well as man coverage. Coming into the NFL Draft I feel both of them are almost identical, hopefully Branch can live up to the hype of being compared to the “Honey Badger”.