No. 4: Andre Branch

Checking in at No. 4 on the countdown of the 25 best players at Clemson is defensive end Andre Branch.

4. DE Andre Branch, RS Sr.
In 2010, his first season as a starter, Branch was fifth among Clemson defenders with 651 snaps.

THE RESUME: If there ever was a case that star ratings don't always make the player, Branch is a prime example. Coming out of Varina High School in Richmond, Va., he was a two-star prospect with no national position ranking, according to

Yet Branch could be an early round pick in next year's NFL Draft.

His potential as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme has some thinking he could be a first-round pick. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay recently projected Branch as the No. 28 overall pick in 2012.

At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Branch plays the bandit end in position in the 4-3 base that Kevin Steele has operated during his first two seasons at Clemson. Now, with Steele likely to incorporate more 3-4, Branch could see more opportunities to play standing up. He is athletic enough to cause problems there, or with his hand on the ground.

Branch recorded 46 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks during his redshirt sophomore season in 2009. That year, he played in every game and totaled 337 snaps.

Last season, he started all 13 games and had 55 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

MOVING FORWARD: Branch exited the spring listed as the starter at the bandit end. Hot on his trail is freshman Corey Crawford, whose drawn high praise from the Clemson coaching staff during his first several months on campus.

Several departures from the Tigers' defensive line have left Branch and fellow seniors Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore as the group's elder statesmen. In other words, Branch has been encouraged to take on a more serious leadership role and he's responded well in that area so far. Top Stories