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Versatile defensive back looked at as Alabama’s unsung hero this year

Brian Branch makes a tackle against Auburb
Marvin Gentry - USA Today Sports

NFL Draft pundits were able to pick out several first-round talents from Alabama’s defense in recent years under Nick Saban.

Outside of Will Anderson Jr., there may not be a definitive first-rounder on this defense.

A versatile defensive back looks to change that perception in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Kansas State.

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Brian Branch, a junior from Georgia, was the most consistent playmaker in the Crimson Tide’s secondary. He excelled against the run, hit home on blitz packages to opposing quarterbacks, and provided closing speed in coverage. The 6-foot, 193-pounder played all over the field, despite getting placed in compromising positions at times. Branch finished third on the team for total tackles (78) and had 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, seven pass breakups, an interception, and two quarterback hurries. 

Coach Nick Saban has praised Branch all year for his versatility. He can play nickel, boundary cornerback, and safety for Alabama. Branch is one of the reasons why the Tide has a chance to end its season with a victory in a classic bowl site.

Henry To’oto’o, a senior linebacker, called Branch the team’s ‘unsung hero’ during Thursday’s player interviews in New Orleans.

“He is so sneaky athletic that people don’t realize it,” To’oto’o said about Branch’s versatility. “He is one of the key guys on our defense that makes so many plays. I don’t think he gets the recognition that he deserves. We appreciate BB, and if you are listening BB, ‘we love you, and keep doing your thing.”

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Byron Young, a senior defensive end, said Branch is someone ‘who flies under the radar.’

“BB is a great player,” Young said Thursday. “A lot of people don’t know about him. He is not a guy that gets talked about a lot, but everyone in the locker room understands Branch is a great player. He is versatile, he can cover, he can blitz well, he can rush the passer some, and he’s a good talent. To see how versatile he is, he has been great for us this year. He’s been great since he’s been here.”

Some draft prognosticators have Branch as a first to second-round selection.

We will see how he fares Saturday against the Wildcats.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith. 

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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