One of the surprises of the summer in Alabama Crimson Tide football recruiting was the sudden rise and verbal commitment of in-state offensive lineman Hunter Brannon. The longtime fan grew into an SEC prospect over the last year and camped at a new position, center, before learning of his scholarship offer and committing to Nick Saban on the spot.
The three-star has since moved to the center position this fall at Cullman (Ala.) High and he has the Bearcats in playoff position heading into the final game of the regular season Friday night.
"I'm playing center, I'm definitely playing center but on one or two packages I'm out at right or left tackle," he said. "But this is my first time at center full-time. It's been good, I've picked up a lot of little nicks and tricks, you know staying in the middle and sitting back on pass-sets. Especially in run blocking, how to set up, it's a whole different (thing) inside than outside.
"But I've picked up a lot with my hands, my feet, just little nicks and tricks that have helped me really a lot. More than I thought it would help."
Brannon, who put in considerable time in the offseason to be able to work at center during many football camps, has been able to adjust without any major setbacks.
"We are a pistol offense, normally. But in "Bearcats," our heavy package near the goal line, we go under center on that," he said. "I've definitely gotten better, I've had some learning since it's my first time snapping in pads but in games I've been good on my base snaps and everything. It's about repetition, repetition. But I haven't snapped one five yards over the head or anything like that, it's been clean."
The in-state 'Bama commitment was back in Tuscaloosa Saturday for its big win over Texas A&M and the coaching staff continues to project him inside at the next level.
"They talked to be about being a true center and guard but I guess when I get down there and get going they'll see what position gets me playing time," Brannon said. "But they're talking to me about center, mostly.
"I saw coach (Brent) Key, talked to him like always. We always cut up...all the coaches, even (Lane) Kiffin, about hunting and fishing and all that. They ask me about my games, my hunting, stuff like that. It's always great conversation and always great to talk to the coaches."
In town with many fellow UA pledges he's grown closer to like Alex Leatherwood, VanDarius Cowan, Markail Benton and others, the magnitude of the top 10 matchup made Bryant-Denny Stadium a bit more different on this day.
"The stadium, it was a 2:30 game and I got there at 12, it was already pretty freaking packed," he said. "Everyone was going crazy, you could sense there was a big game. But when (Jonathan) Allen picked up that fumble, the stadium erupted, you could feel it in your feet. It was the craziest thing I'd ever seen."
The new center kept a close eye on the Alabama offensive line, including one of the starters he would eventually be in the running to compete to replace.
"(Bradley) Bozeman was pancaking guys, getting up and getting to the second level and the secondary," Brannon said. "They were firing on all cylinders for sure. They were focused and they had one mission, all the guys were going to help each other win."
A December graduate projection, the Cullman standout expects to enroll at UA in January. He is working on setting up an official visit to Tuscaloosa in the coming weeks without plans to visit any other campus despite continued recruiting efforts from other college programs.