This morning I mentioned that Georgia’s objective on this National Signing Day was the hold onto its current commitments and maybe add a defensive lineman. Or perhaps a defensive back. But then Kirby said:
Amite, Louisiana defensive back Daran Branch has been committed to Ole Miss since November, but with Matt Luke coming to Athens and the Bulldogs renewing their pursuit, the chance to don the red and black proved too powerful a lure.
Branch is rated a three star recruit by 247Sports and counted offers from not just the ‘Dawgs and Rebels but also Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Miami, and Colorado among others. I suspect what drew former Georgia assistants Jeremy Pruitt and Mel Tucker to Branch was the same thing Kirby Smart wants in his secondary: long, athletic defenders who can run with receivers downfield or play physical close to the line.
The 6’2, 180 pound Branch fits that mold. He also has the frame to add weight in a college strength and nutrition program.
While he’s flashed athleticism (a 33 inch vertical at The Opening regionals last spring, for example) Branch has good but not ludicrous speed. His footwork is also inconsistent, and he’s not as fluid in the hips as you’d like a cover corner to be. I see Branch perhaps more likely at the Star position, where his run-stuffing ability could be an asset.
His unpolished status as a pass defender helps explain why he is ranked only the #51 cornerback and #28 player in the state of Louisiana for this recruiting cycle. But like we saw with the commitment of lineman Cameron Kinnie this morning, this pickup was about finding a guy with the attributes for our system and seeing if he can stick. With a deep veteran secondary unit returning in 2020, Kirby Smart is in position to take a flyer here on a player with tremendous upside. Frankly I could have registered many of the same criticisms of three Star corner Deandre Baker when he picked the Bulldogs. I’m not saying Branch is a future first rounder. But if anyone can turn him into one it’s probably Charlton Warren and Kirby Smart.
Branch joins fellow defense of back Major Burns and Sedrick Van Pran as the third Louisiana product in the class of 2020, the most Pelican State recruits in recent memory. Barring something surprising, it now appears Georgia also has locked up the top recruiting class in 247Sports’ 2020 rankings. Which is okay, too. Until later...