Each week, Mel Kiper gives updates on a group of prospects who have caught his eye -- some well-known, others well under the radar.
In his first year as a starter working opposite Da'Quan Bowers in 2010, Branch amassed 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. The question NFL scouts had coming into the 2011 season was how the 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior would fare as the Tigers' featured performer at the position. In their win over Virginia Tech, he had five tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. Not only did he display the speed to beat the offensive tackle to the outside and the closing speed to finish the job once the quarterback or ball carrier was in sight, he also showed good pop at the point. We're not even at the halfway point of the season and he already has eight tackles for loss and five sacks. A couple of weeks ago against Auburn, I was impressed with his hustle and pursuit skills. Those two attributes have enabled Branch to lead the team in tackles (34), something you don't see all that often from a player at his position.