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2015 NFL DRAFT
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Tyvon Branch, CB

Height: 6-0 | Weight: 204 | College: Connecticut
 
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Overview

Branch possesses exceptional range and good ball skills in the secondary, but he made a name for himself as a kickoff returner in 2007, establishing school records while leading the Big East Conference with an average of 28.89 yards per return. Regarded as the fastest cornerback in college football, his ability to compete for the ball in flight and make plays in run support could see him shift to free safety at the next level.

The only Connecticut player to ever return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season, Branch was the most experienced defensive back on the squad last year. Since taking over right cornerback duties as a junior, he has grown into his leadership role and the staff feels he could one day make an ideal coach, as he makes the extra effort to mentor and work out with the team's younger players.

Branch attended Cicero-North Syracuse High School, where he earned second-team All-State, All-Central New York and All-Area honors as a tailback and outside linebacker for the Northstars. He also excelled in track, and was the recipient of the Gatorade New York State Track Athlete of the Year Award after winning the 2004 National Indoor Track Championship in the 60 meters (6.82). He finished first in the state in both the 100 and 200 meters as a senior, setting a school record with a 10.60-second clocking in the 100-meter dash.

Branch was expected to accept a scholarship to local Syracuse, but opted to enroll at Connecticut instead. He played mostly on special teams in 2004, but became the only true freshman to start a game that year, taking over left cornerback duties for the Georgia Tech game. He recorded at least one tackle in every game, except vs. Pittsburgh, finishing with 20 tackles (12 solos) while averaging 20.0 yards on ten kickoff returns.

In May, 2005, Branch was one of five Connecticut football players arrested after an incident in which the window of a motor vehicle was shot out. The driver's-side window of a vehicle driven by a 55-year-old woman was shot out by a pellet gun as two vehicles passed each other in a parking lot, and the suspects fled the scene in a white sport utility vehicle, the police said. A few minutes later, the police located the suspects and the vehicle. They were all charged with possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle and released after posting $750 bond.

Branch spent the first part of the 2005 campaign playing in reserve. He took over right cornerback duties at midseason, starting the final five games and his next 30 contests in the lineup. He produced 42 tackles (21 solos) with an assisted sack, four pass break-ups and two interceptions. His play in the secondary helped the team rank sixth in the nation in total defense, allowing just 297.18 yards per game.

In 2006, Branch registered 79 tackles (47 solos) with four stops behind the line of scrimmage for the Big East Conference's second-ranked secondary that gave up 178.5 yards per game. He caused and recovered two fumbles, broke up four passes and also picked off another.

Even though he led the Big East and ranked 13th nationally with an average of 28.89 yards per kickoff return, scoring twice, Branch was only named a second-team All-Conference choice in 2007. He gained 780 yards on 27 attempts, as his two touchdown returns set season and career records at Connecticut. He ranked fifth on the team with a career-high 89 tackles (53 solos), including three stops for losses, a forced fumble and 10 pass deflections.

In 48 games at Connecticut, Branch started 31 contests. He recorded 224 tackles (133 solos) with an assisted sack for minus-4 yards and 7.5 stops for losses of 32 yards. He caused three fumbles and recovered two others, advancing one 8 yards. He posted 18 pass deflections and three interceptions for 15 yards in returns. He also returned 37 kickoffs for 980 yards (26.5 avg) and a pair of touchdowns.

Analysis

Positives: Has a lean frame, but generates good power behind his hits and has the hand strength to be effective in press coverage … Has more of a sprinter's build, with tapered muscles and will need to add more bulk for a potential shift to safety at the next level, but only if it does not affect his timed speed … Has exceptional range to make plays at the opposite end of the field and very good ball skills, showing good urgency closing on the play and is rarely caught out of position … Physical and aggressive taking on lead blockers to impact the rush lanes … Tireless worker who the staff says is always the first player in the office to pick up the scouting report on his upcoming opponent … Spends his spare time watching game films and has taken well to his leadership role … Needs to translate that work ethic to the weight room (has natural strength, but is not a fan of lifting), but will do what the coaches ask … In addition to his excellence as a kickoff returner, he has the speed and desire to get downfield in a hurry as a gunner on the punt coverage unit … Is smart enough to be in charge of making the check-down calls in the secondary and does a fine job of reading route combinations and acting accordingly … Even when he locks on and runs with his man, he keeps his head on a swivel to scan the field (likes to be aware of his surroundings) … Physical with his hand punch in attempts to press and reroute and has enough ability to shadow a wide receiver … Not the type to peek into the backfield or gamble much and despite marginal hips, he can stick with receivers on double moves … Breaks on the ball quickly and has the leaping ability to high point the ball … Best when playing the ball in front of him and is very alert with his eyes scanning the field … Has the sustained speed to pursue plays from across the field … Shows good body adjustment skills to get to off-target throws … Will not hesitate to battle bigger opponents in jump-ball situations … Stays low in his pads and scans the field nicely when serving as the primary support defender vs. the run … Active and willing to make plays in the backfield, using his hands well to shed and avoid on the move … Solid open-field tackler who stays low in his pads and drives with his legs in attempts to push the defender back … Stronger than his frame looks, using a good punch to come off blocks and make the play … Face-up, wrap-up tackler who looks fearless when having to make plays at the line of scrimmage.

Negatives: Can get to the thrown ball at its high point, but lacks ideal arm length and has very small hands … Not athletic enough to be a quality cover cornerback and might be a better fit at free safety due to poor backpedal technique and tight hips in transition … Too rigid in his movements because of his hip issues, looking sluggish when having to change direction (4.4 20-yard shuttle time was the third-worst of all cornerbacks at the Combine) … Underachieves in the classroom, but the staff feels he is perfectly capable of handling the mental aspect of the pro game (has lazy classroom habits) … Has good football character, but there was a minor off-field incident that needs further clarification and he does not like being challenged by hard coaching … Better playing the ball than in man coverage due to his marginal backpedal mechanics (gets too tall in his stance and fails to open his hips when transitioning) … Sometimes loses sight of the ball on deep routes and makes most of his big plays when facing the quarterback … Has just adequate hands to secure the ball on interceptions (traps them or lets them into his body rather than extend), resulting in more pass break-ups than pass thefts due to his inability to catch the ball outside his frame-work … Generally a good face-up tackler, but when he takes a side, he does not have the hand/arm strength to drag the ballcarriers down … Because of his marginal hip snap, he will need to bulk up for a possible move to safety, but the additional weight could impact his best asset -- speed.

Compares To: EUGENE WILSON-Tampa Bay … Like the former New England defender, Branch has exceptional speed, but it is sometimes negated by his inability to open his hips and come out of his breaks cleanly and with suddenness. He might be a better fit at free safety, where he can freelance and attack the ball in off coverage. His struggles on deep routes are due to an inability to change direction and get back on the route quick enough. He has valid closing speed to make plays in run force, shows good hand technique in press coverage and has developed into a quality kickoff returner. If he can add bulk for a potential shift to safety, a team will get better value from him there than when isolated one-on-one with the receiver in man coverage.

Career Notes

Branch ranks tied for ninth with Billy DiYeso (1966-68) and Dave Korponai (1961-63) on the school career-record list with 37 kickoff returns … He is the only player in school history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season (2007) and a career … His two scores tied the Big East Conference season-record that he shares with Lew Lawhorn of Temple (1992), Kevin Johnson of Syracuse (1997 and 1998), Nate Terry of West Virginia (1997), Shawn Terry of West Virginia (2000) and Nate Jones of Rutgers (2002) … His 980 yards on kickoff returns placed seventh on UConn's all-time record chart … His career average of 26.49 yards per kickoff return broke the old school career-record of 26.1 yards by George Boothe (1986-88) … His 27 kickoff returns in 2007 rank fifth on Connecticut's season-record list behind Tory Taylor (41, 1998), Jordan Younger (38, 1999), Carl Bradford (34, 2000) and Joe Markus (30, 1981) … His 780 yards on kickoff returns in 2007 rank second on the school season-record chart, topped only by Tory Taylor's 849 yards in 1998 … That total ranks fifth on the Big East Conference season-record books behind Will Blackmon of Boston College (922 yards, 2003), Adam Jones of West Virginia (867, 2003), Darius Reynaud of West Virginia (813, 2006) and Terrell Willis of Rutgers (813, 1995) … His average of 28.9 yards per kickoff return in 2007 broke the old school season-record average of 28.5 by Boothe in 1987 … Only Mike Imoh of Virginia Tech (18 for 549, 30.5 avg, 2003), Johnson (23 for 690, 30.0 avg, 1998) and Lew Lawhorn of Temple (20 for 600, 30.0 avg, 1992) had better averages in a season in Big East annals … Gained 184 yards on kickoff returns vs. Rutgers in 2007, breaking the old school game-record of 165 yards by Boothe vs. Maine in 1986 … His 184 yards rank sixth on the Big East game-record board … Returned seven kickoffs vs. West Virginia in 2007, the second-highest game total in Big East history (Dietrich Jells of Pittsburgh had eight vs. Virginia Tech in 1993) … His 97-yard kickoff returns vs. both Akron and Rutgers in 2007 tied Larry Taylor (vs. Temple in 2004) for the fifth-longest kickoff return in school history.

2007 Season

Duke … Opened the season with five tackles (3 solos), as he deflected a pass and had a 29-yard kickoff return … Caused a fumble when he stripped the ball from Leon Wright on a third quarter punt return for a 6-yard loss, but Duke recovered it.

Maine … Limited to a solo tackles and a 20-yard kickoff return.

Temple … Gained 49 yards on two kickoff returns, broke up a pass and made five tackles while assisting on a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage, including one that stopped tailback Travis Smith for a 4-yard loss on a run near midfield late in the first quarter … His second quarter 43-yard kickoff return resulted in a Connecticut 24-yard field goal.

Pittsburgh … Registered six tackles (4 solos), including a pair of third-down stops and also deflected a pass.

Akron … Amassed 150 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 97-yarder for a touch-down late in the second quarter … Also collected six tackles (5 solos).

Virginia … Followed with five tackles (3 solos), two pass deflections and 47 yards on a pait of kickoff returns.

Louisville … Credited with a nine-tackle (6 solos) performance.

South Florida … Produced six tackles (4 solos), including one that leveled Jamar Taylor for a 2-yard loss on a rushing attempt at the start of the fourth quarter … Added a 27-yard kick-

Off return and two pass deflections, including one on a Matt Grothe third-&-5, forcing USF to punt at the start of the second half.

Rutgers … Set several school records, including 184 yards on four kickoff returns with a 97-yarder for a touchdown in the second quarter … Along with his 97-yarder earlier in the year vs. Akron, he is the only player in school history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season and the only one to score twice via that avenue in a career … Also was in on thirteen tackles (6 solos) while breaking up one pass.

Cincinnati … Returned three kickoffs for 72 yards and delivered eight tackles (5 solos), including a pair of third-down stops.

Syracuse … Registered another eight tackles (3 solos) while breaking up one pass.

West Virginia … Totaled 93 yards on seven kickoff returns and made seven tackles (5 solos).

Wake Forest (Meineke Car Care Bowl) … Branch closed out his career with 109 yards on three kickoff returns, a pass deflection and ten tackles (8 solos), including one that stopped tailback Josh Adams for a 2-yard loss near midfield midway through the first quarter.

2006 Season

Started all twelve games at right cornerback, calling signals for a secondary that ranked second in the Big East Conference and 25th nationally, allowing 178.5 yards per game passing … Registered 79 tackles (47 solos) with four stops for losses of 21 yards … Caused two fumbles and recovered two others, returning one 8 yards … Picked off one pass and had four pass deflections.

2006 Game Analysis

Opened the season with six tackles (3 solos) vs. Rhode Island … Added eight hits vs. Wake Forest and had four solo tackles, including one for a 7-yard loss and a pass break-up in the Indiana contest … Produced eight tackles (5 solos) with a stop behind the line of scrimmage and caused a fumble vs. Navy … Totaled five solo stops vs. South Florida and had another five tackles (3 solos) in the Army game … Posted five more tackles and a stop for a 1-yard loss vs. West Virginia … Recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass and came up with nine tackles (4 solos) vs. Rutgers … Produced ten tackles (5 solos) and a stop behind the line of scrimmage in the Pittsburgh tilt … Made four tackles and recovered a fumble that he returned 8 yards vs. Syracuse … Had eight tackles (5 solos) and a pair of deflected passes vs. Cincinnati … Ended the season with seven tackles (6 solos), a stop for an 8-yard loss and a pass break-up vs. Louisville.

2005 Season

Played in eleven games, starting the final five contests at right cornerback … Produced 42 tackles (21 solos) with an assisted sack for a 4-yard loss, two interceptions for 15 yards in returns and four pass deflections.

2005 Game Analysis

Made a season-high eleven tackles (6 solos) with an assisted sack for minus 4 yards and two pass deflections vs. Louisville … In his first start at right cornerback, he returned an interception 15 yards while posting nine tackles (3 solos) vs. Rutgers … Added four hits and a pass break-up vs. Pittsburgh … Picked off a pass, caused a fumble and came up with five tackles (4 solos) in the South Florida game.

2004 Season

Played in 12 games, seeing action mostly on special teams, as he returned ten kickoffs for 200 yards (20.0 avg) … Recorded 20 tackles (12 solos) and was the only true freshman in the starting lineup for any games in 2004, when he started the Georgia Tech contest at left cornerback.

2004 Game Analysis

Had a season-high four solo tackles vs. Buffalo … Returned a critical 38-yard kickoff just before halftime of the nationally-televised win over Pittsburgh which set up Matt Nuzie's dramatic, momentum-swinging 49-yard field goal as time expired in the half.

Injury Report

No injuries reported.

Agility Tests

Campus: 4.4 in the 40-yard dash … 308-pound bench press … 438-pound squat … 270-pound power clean … 35-inch vertical jump … 29 7/8-inch arm length … 8 3/8-inch hands … Right-handed … 24/30 Wonderlic score.

Combine: 4.31 in the 40-yard dash … 1.47 10-yard dash … 2.49 20-yard dash … 4.4 20-yard shuttle … 34-inch vertical jump … 10'0" broad jump … Bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times.

Off-Field Issues

On Sunday, May 8, 2005, five University of Connecticut players were arrested in Willimantic, Conn., after an incident in which the window of a motor vehicle was shot out. The driver's-side window of a vehicle driven by a 55-year-old woman was shot out by a pellet gun as two vehicles passed each other in a parking lot, and the suspects fled the scene in a white sport utility vehicle, the police said. A few minutes later, the police located the suspects and the vehicle.

Donta Moore, a junior free safety, was charged with possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle, second-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal mischief, third-degree assault and unlawful discharge of a firearm. He was released after posting $1,000 bond. Also arrested were Tyvon Branch, a sophomore free safety; Daniel Davis, a sophomore defensive end; Daniel Lansanah, a sophomore linebacker; and Marvin Taylor, 20, a sophomore free safety.

They were all charged with possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle and released after posting $750 bond.

High School

Attended Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) High School, playing football for head coach Steve Ellis … Earned second-team All-State, All-Central New York and All-Area honors as a tailback and outside linebacker for the Northstars … Excelled in track, and was the recipient of the Gatorade New York State Track Athlete of the Year Award after winning the 2004 National Indoor Track Championship in the 60 meters (6.82) … Finished first in the state in both the 100 and 200 meters as a senior, setting a school record with a 10.60-second clocking in the 100-meter dash.

Personal

Economics major … One of nine siblings … Born Tyvon A. Branch on 12/11/86 … Resides in Syracuse, New York.

 
 

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