But Hobby hasn't ruled out the possibility of Corey Crawford or Kourtnei Brown taking over at either position at some point this fall.
"There are no set starters. It's easy to win a job in the spring, in my opinion," Hobby said at Tuesday's media golf outing. "You go Monday. You're off Tuesday. You never see a guy when the grind is going on."
Branch started all 13 games at Bandit last season. He finished the year with 55 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Hobby hopes that he is ready to take that proverbial next step in 2011.
"One thing you always want from your seniors, is seniors need to play like seniors," Hobby said. "You need to play like a veteran football players. Not just on the field, but off the field. A senior who's not a leader could be just a great freshman."
He also believes that Branch is trending in the right direction.
"I think the 6-7 season hurt him a lot. He's a prideful guy," Hobby said. "Just hearing over the summer, he's becoming more vocal, more of a leader. Those things are going to make a big difference with him."
|"Coach Steele said a thing, you could put a ball in the ocean. The ball will float to him… that goes back to his high school, to where he played high school football at and where he went to prep school."|
It's Crawford, No. 93.
"I hate to compare him. He's like a beautiful flower. All you need is a little water," Hobby said. "He has all the ability in the world. Just add a little water, he'll grow. A lot of the things that he does, he does natural. That's what you want.
"When you get guys that say, ‘He's a natural player.' That guy is a natural football player. He understands the game."
Both Hobby and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele marvel at Crawford's nose for the football.
"Coach Steele said a thing, you could put a ball in the ocean. The ball will float to him… that goes back to his high school, to where he played high school football at and where he went to prep school," Hobby said. "All that plays a role. He's been coached. He understands the game."
The most recent former No. 93, Da'Quan Bowers, was a unanimous All-American as a junior last season. His 15.5 sacks led the country and were the most by an ACC defender since 1999.
Clemson coaches and fans alike are hoping Goodman shows a similar path of development during his junior season.
"[Bowers] was a great talent, but his second effort was probably the thing that stuck out the most. When you see him get cut, get off the ground, run the quarterback down or jump over somebody to do something," Hobby said. "I think Malliciah just has to develop into that starter, being that second-effort guy. Anytime you've got a big athlete who will play extremely hard, they're going to make plays."
Brown, who is behind Goodman on the depth chart right now, has fought off several injuries and waited his turn behind plenty of talented defensive ends.
"The guy new the system better than I did in the spring, so he was a big help," Hobby said.
And he's really pulling for Brown to end his career on a high note.
"My biggest thing is that young man stays healthy. There would be nothing better than for Kourtnei to graduate from Clemson, have a great senior year and we have a great season," Hobby said. "That's what I would want for him."
Only a few months before Clemson's spring practice, Hobby was finishing up his third season at Duke, where he served as defensive coordinator.
And should help some of the young guns who could be ready to step up in 2011.
"The advantage they have--they have a new coach. I don't remember what they did last year. I'm going to see what they do this year," he said.