Georgia Tech defensive tackle Desmond Branch is getting used to life on the inside. Branch came to Tech in January 2016 as a junior-college signee expected to play defensive end.
As the season progressed, though, he was moved to tackle. The difference?
“The toughness,” he said. “You hear of the toughness. Like Pat (Gamble) would tell me, ‘Oh, that inside’s no joke, Desmond.’ But I was like, All right, OK, Pat. But then I got in there and I said, ‘Wow, you really have to have your head on straight and just be aggressive.’”
Branch is one of a handful of possibilities to give Tech depth in the interior, where defensive coordinator Ted Roof lost Gamble and Francis Kallon to graduation. It’s the least experienced position group on the defense. Kyle Cerge-Henderson, Brentavious Glanton and Brandon Adams also hope to be a part of the rotation.
“The defensive line, we’re trying to get our production up across the board and increase our depth,” Branch said. “We’re really trying to get the pass rush going. I know pass rush was a little bit low last year, and we’re just trying to step that up because we know that we’re better than what we put out there, so we’re going to be working hard in the offseason and just build more depth at every single position.”
Tech was 114th last season in sacks per game at 1.39 per game. Branch played in nine games with five tackles. He was credited with two quarterback hurries as well as one pass defensed and one pass breakup.
Playing at tackle as opposed to end, Branch said, requires playing a more selfless attitude.
“You really have to man up and know if you’re taking on a double team, you have to take on a double team for the defense,” he said. “It’s not about you. You might not get the glory taking on that double team, but the linebacker might get the tackle. You have to be OK with that. That’s what I think the difference is.”
As the “3-technique” defensive tackle, Branch is in more of a playmaking role. The 3-technique tackle lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder, which limits his exposure to double teams. Gamble and Adam Gotsis have played there previously with success. Bringing more quickness from the end position, Branch has the potential to cause problems from his new spot.
“I definitely pride myself on my pass rush,” Branch said. “And Pat G. has told me that he sees stuff in my pass rush, so I’m definitely going to continue that pass rush at 3-technique.”
Branch, the younger brother of New England Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch, said he is at 272 pounds and trying to get up to 285, or at least 280 by the time the season starts.