Assessing the Impact of Brian Branch
Big time players make big time plays in big time situations — and Alabama defensive back Brian Branch has exemplified that over the last two seasons.
As a freshman in 2020, Branch stepped up whenever his number was called. He earned his first career start in sixth game of the season against Mississippi State — registering seven tackles, half a tackle for loss and two pass breakups. He picked off his first pass in the Iron Bowl and another one in the Tide’s regular season finale against Arkansas.
He stepped in for an injured Malachi Moore in each of Alabama’s College Football Playoff matchups. Branch recorded three tackles and a pass breakup in a win over Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. In the national championship game against Ohio State, he finished the game with four tackles and a season-high three pass breakups while facing first-round wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
Branch appeared in all 15 games, including seven starts this past season. He tallied 55 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack and a team-leading nine pass breakups.
He took over as the starter at the star position against Auburn and would go onto start the final four contests for the Crimson Tide.
The finest performance of his career came in the Cotton Bowl — when he finished the game with a team-high eight tackles, half a sack and two pass breakups. Branch was all over field, making an impact in the run and pass game.
Branch returns for his junior season as part of a daunting secondary in Tuscaloosa.
“Between my first and second year, I feel like knowing the plays, getting the scheme and everything because I was moving around a lot. Just knowing each position really helped me,” Branch said, “and so I feel like that’s going to give me a big boost for this third year.”
Branch is a versatile player that can line up at any spot in the secondary. Safety Jordan Battle called Branch and DeMarcco Hellams the hardest hitters in Alabama's secondary.
He plays with a fire and passion that can energize an entire team. The way he flies around the football field is reminiscent of Cardinals safety Budda Baker.
The former four-star recruit in the 2020 recruiting cycle has always been a standout on the field. He started on varsity as a freshman at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, GA. and set the program record in career interceptions. Branch was awarded the Georgia 5A Ironman of the Year as a senior, presented to the top two-way player.
The Georgia native was ranked as the No. 5 safety in an early 2023 Big Board on ESPN, but another year in front of NFL scouts could have his draft stock on the rise.