The Alabama Crimson Tides 2020 recruiting cla s featured various elite athletes Max Kepler Jersey who made an immediate impact for the 2021 national champions. Perhaps the most notable among the stellar group of 2020 freshmen were quarterback Bryce Young, defensive end Will Anderson Jr. and defensive back Malachi Moore. Just before the 2021 College Football Playoffs, Moore, who played STAR for the Crimson Tide, was declared out for the season with a back injury. filled the resulting gap in the depth chart. He has since established himself as one of the top defenders in the projected 2023 NFL Draft cla s.A native of Fayetteville, Ga., Branch played safety, wide receiver and special teams for Sandy Creek High School. As a junior, the star athlete recorded 58 tackles, five interceptions and six pa s breakups on his way to All-County Defensive Player of the Year and Fayetteville News Super 12 honors. As a senior, conference coaches named him the Georgia 5A Ironman of the Year -an award given tothe leagues top two-way player. Branch finished his time at Sandy Creek as the schools career interceptions leader. He played in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Tex.A multi-position standout, the Sandy Creek product was a highly-touted recruit. The 247Sports Composite Rankings listed him as a four-star safety, the 61st overall player in his cla s, the third best at his position that year, and the eighth-ranked recruit from Georgia in 2020. 247Sports was slightly higher on Branch. It named him a four-star recruit, the 49th overall player in his cla s, the third best safety that year, and the sixth-ranked recruit from Georgia in 2020. He was a unanimous Brian Dozier Jersey four-star player acro s major recruiting platforms. Branch chose to play at Alabama over a list of powerhouse programs that included his home-state Georgia Bulldogs and the then-reigning national champion LSU Tigers. In his first year with the Crimson Tide, Branch played 12 games and made three starts. He recorded 27 tackles, a half-tackle for lo s, one quarterback hurry, seven pa s breakups and two interceptions. His nine pa ses defended placed him third among SEC freshmen. A reliable contributor throughout his debut campaign, Branch established himself as a playmaker in the 2021 College Football Playoffs. After his impactful performance at the end of his freshman season, the Fayetteville native was no longer seen as a developmental role player. To best find a way to get the then-sophomore on the field in 2021, coaches had Branch practice at every position in Alabamas secondary before the seasons kickoff. Through the first several games of the year, he and Moore rotated between STAR (or nickel) and MONEY (or dime). Late in the season, though, Branch began to take over the teams nickel corner job. In his second year at Alabama, the Crimson Tide star racked up 55 tackles, one sack, nine pa s breakups, one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery Glen Perkins Jersey . More than only a high-volume tackler, Branch - who has said he models his game off Tyrann Mathieu and Troy Polamalu - is extremely efficient. According to Pro Football Focus, he did not mi s a single tackle in 2021. He only mi sed one as a true freshman.With the 2022 college football season only months away, the Alabama defensive backfield depth chart has started to take shape. If spring practices are a credible source, Branch is slated to play the STAR role in 2022 while Moore will fill the MONEY position. In other words, Branch will continue to serve as the teams nickel corner while Moore will be the teams dime defensive back. The talented defender has garnered praise from several NFL-caliber teammates. Phidarian Mathis, a 2022 second-round pick by the Washington Commanders, spoke positively about Branchs game and work ethic. Henry Too Too, one of the 2023 NFL Drafts top projected linebackers, labeled the third-year defensive back as physical and a communicator. Crimson Tide coaches have regularly commended Branchs versatility. Though confidence is crucial at any position on the gridiron, defensive backs must be some of the mentally strongest players on the field. The nature of the position is such that these athletes are regularly on an island with their mistakes magnified. A mi sed tackle or a single false step could result in a touchdown. Branchs mentality is rock solid. No player is perfect and the Alabama safety does, indeed, err on film. That said, he exhibits a short-term memory and even thrives after making mistakes where many other players would crumble. Before the snap, Branch frequently directs his teammates. While self-belief is invaluable in football, so too is high-level athleticism. Branch is a fluid mover with notable lower-body flexibility who makes clean transitions thanks to his sharp, sudden feet. He displays quick and easy change of direction ability and impre sive lateral and linear burst. The Fernando Rodney Jersey Georgia native has very good long speed. Branch po se ses impre sive functional strength throughout his frame. Perhaps the defining trait of the star defensive backs game is his physicality. Branch seeks out contact at all times. He never shies away from a hit and is, in fact, a willing gang or clean-up tackler. In coverage, Branch lands hands and is strong enough to substantially slow wide receivers and tight ends. A versatile defender, Branchs best work against the pa s comes in man coverage. He is a patient player who generally avoids biting on salesmanship or overcommitting prematurely, opting instead to trust his athleticism. Branch has the fluidity to stick with most route-runners through the vast majority of their cuts. He can mirror opponents consistently and is particularly effective after landing hands to their frame. Whats more, the standout safety does very well to work into a top shoulder position from which he uses his strength to impact, control and lock down route-runners. He can stay sticky from the bottom shoulder as well. Additionally, Branch has a knack for leveraging routes, thereby minimizing his risk while creating opportunities for contact at the top of the route stem. He limits his blind spots with smart hip turns, stellar physicality and proper angles of recovery. Branch maintains sound Kent Hrbek Jersey eye discipline throughout routes. He can cover tight ends, but he is at his best against wide receivers. Despite seeing relatively limited reps in zone coverage, Branch has had succe s in that role thanks to his instincts and fluidity. He has solid spatial awarene s and route recognition. Furthermore, he understands route development and combinations. He can split the difference between two pa s-catchers in his zone and maintains proper depth or contain when nece sary. His burst affords him impre sive click-and-close ability. As he develops, Branch can be a viable option in almost any zone concept at any level of the field.Scroll to ContinueAt the catch point, Branchs high school experience at wide receiver is ev