The Alabama defense is loaded with talent that will play on Sunday, but one player who is getting more recognition is defensive back Brian Branch. The junior is projected to be selected in the first round in two CBS mock drafts that were released during the previous week.
The Fayetteville, Ga., native has stood out for the Crimson Tide over the past few seasons. As a true freshman in 2020, he performed brilliantly in both of the Tide’s College Football Playoff games, including a three-pass breakup game against Ohio State in the national championship. Branch showed excellent coverage skills and an ability to excel on a big stage as he lined up against future first-round picks Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
He started each of the Tide’s final five games of the 2021 season and played a crucial role on the Crimson Tide defense in the Iron Bowl and was magnificent in a win over Cincinnati in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Throughout his career, Branch played his best football in Alabama’s biggest games. His play on the field this season caught the attention of ESPN NFL recruiting analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
“The 6-foot slot corner is extremely versatile with excellent read-and-react ability,” Kiper said in an ESPN article. “He’s a good blitzer with the instincts to make plays on the ball; he broke up two passes against the Aggies. Branch hasn’t had an interception since his freshman season in 2020, but that will come in time. He looks like an instant plug-and-play starter in the NFL who will be coveted in the top 50 picks next April.
During the season, Branch registered 17 tackles, including four for loss, four pass breakups and one sack. He also showed his value as a punter, taking one back for a touchdown in the Tide’s week three matchup against ULM.
Branch’s versatility in the secondary makes him a defensive chess piece for any team. In each of Alabama’s last two fall camps, he spent time playing every position in the secondary.
“Brian Branch could actually play corner if we needed him, we’re working him out there,” Nick Saban said in August.
The NFL draft is a long way off, but Branch has certainly made a case to be the next Alabama defensive back to hear his name called on day one.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Week 6 2022