NFL Draft Q&A: Michigan DL Alan Branch

Alan Branch is a monster in the middle. His size says he could be an elite run-stuffer at the next level – a trait that is coveted. His visits and workouts are in the books, and Branch talked about how much he has improved since being a punt returner in high school, what his goals are moving forward, the perceived faults he has, and much more.

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Branch met with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, and Washington Redskins prior to the NFL Draft, while also having a sit-down with the San Francisco 49ers.

Can you talk about Athletes Performance and how that helped you prepare for the combine and your workouts?

Alan Branch: Athletes Performance, they really focus on the muscles and the explosion aspects of the combine work that we’re going to be doing. The bench-press, the technique and where you want to let the bar hit on your chest, getting that rhythm going on. And the 40, they really help you with the start mechanics and how to maintain the speed throughout the whole 40-yard dash.

With some of the unconventional things being done there, on the first day did you ask yourself, how is this going to help me?

Alan Branch: I didn’t really ask that. I asked a lot about the regeneration courses that they have, like the bum roll. I’d never seen the bum roll before and the other stuff. We do a lot of balancing on one leg and skip, bending over and stuff. I never really knew what that was for, but I guess it stretches your muscles out and helps you with your hip flexor mobility.

Those exercises aren’t easy, are they?

Alan Branch: Definitely not. A lot of those guys make it look a lot easier than it really is. I’m just there ... I’m struggling. I just try my best every time we do exercises like that because I don’t want to look too much like a fool.

You returned five punts in high school and played tight end at the All-American combines as a junior; does that seem like ages ago?

Alan Branch: Really, it honestly felt like yesterday. I was actually talking to Dwayne Jarrett and Adrian Peterson because we were all in that high school All-American game all together and we were talking about the game and all the people that played with us. I was like, man, it just felt like it was the other day. Time is just flying by right now. You’ve just got to enjoy it.

How have you changed since then?

Alan Branch: I feel in high school I was kind of hard-headed. I didn’t think I knew everything, but I didn’t want to try new techniques that people were telling me. And in college I kind of just let go and became coachable and, really, being coachable is what got me here since I’ve been in college. I feel I’m a lot more mature in knowing that there’s people that know more about football than me and really I’m just trying to soak up all the knowledge from everyone I can.

Can you talk about your decision to enter the NFL draft as a junior?

Alan Branch: Really, it had a lot to do with how I felt during the process. I felt that I’ve got a lot out of Michigan and they probably could have offered me a little more, but I felt that it’s about that time to leave. There was a great opportunity for me to leave and I just decided to take it. It really felt perfect. I felt perfectly fine getting into the draft and getting ready for the next level.

What did you think you had to show scouts that maybe they haven’t seen on the game tapes?

Alan Branch: I thought a lot of scouts believed I’m a lot slower than I am. I had to prove that in the 40 (5.07) and the 5-10-5 (4.79) and the three-cone drill (7.56) – I’m a lot quicker and faster than a lot of people think. I’m not fast like a receiver, but looking at a 330-pound man do this, they were surprised. I think I raised some eyebrows.

What part of your game do you want to improve or is your game where you want it to be?

Alan Branch: No, you can always get better. Right now, I’m really focusing on the pass rush. I have Coach Pratt with me, getting one-on-one time with the coach. We’re just going over the pass rush and stuff because he says the league is a lot different than in college, because in college you’re trying to stop the run a lot more before you stop the pass, and he was telling me that. He’s just teaching me new techniques as far as pass rushing. I took some of them in, a lot of them I already knew from college. Really, I’ve been just working on my pass-rushing skills.

Do you have a favorite position on the defensive line?

Alan Branch: Really, no. I like to consider myself a student of the game. Really, if you put me out anywhere, it doesn’t really matter because I’m going to try and memorize every single position on that front four or front three. I want to be able to know what my teammates are supposed to be doing so I can know if I can take a risk doing this move or that move. I like to know what everybody is doing on the field, and usually I try to get to know what the linebackers are doing, but they’re slightly more complex than the D-line.

You seem to be a perfect fit as a 3-4 nose tackle; is this what you’ve been hearing from NFL teams?

Alan Branch: I’ve been seeing stuff from both, the 3-4 and the 4-3 defense. I’ve been working on both, just being ready to be inside for the 3-4, the technique, what you’re trying to look at before the snap, what my responsibilities are during the play and stuff. I’ve been working on both. I’ve been told that I’ve been getting looked at in both types of defenses. It kind of excites me because I like learning new defenses. This is a great time for me to learn these things.

Are you excited about the idea of going up against NFL offensive linemen, particularly all those former Michigan players?

Alan Branch: I’m really excited. I’ve been watching those guys since I was little. Since I’ve been in college playing for whatever schools, it’s like I always say, I’m from New Mexico and I never imagined I’d really be playing against all these guys, so I’m just excited just to play. I’m just ready to get out there and get to practice against all these guys.

What NFL player would you compare yourself to?

Alan Branch: I don’t know about that. I’ve probably got to watch a little more film to figure that out. I don’t know.

For the NFL team that drafts Alan Branch, what will it be getting?

Alan Branch: Really, the NFL teams are getting a guy that buys into the defense, a team-oriented guy because if I can make a tackle I’m going to make it, but I’m not going to jump out of my responsibility just so I can get extra stats. Really, I’m going to buy in and do whatever it takes to make the team win. And a big guy that’s an athlete.

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