Kirby Smart glad to have Daran Branch back on the sidelines

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Kirby Smart glad to have Daran Branch back on the sidelines

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Mon., Aug. 24, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Freshman defensive back Daran Branch was a top priority for Georgia late in the 2020 signing period. The Bulldogs were able to successfully flip the Louisiana native from Ole Miss on National Signing Day.

Now, it doesn’t surprise anyone that Kirby Smart is glad to have Branch back in Athens after reports came out last week that he wasn’t with the team. It was confirmed that he hadn’t been with the program for nearly a month.

“He’s back with the team,” Smart said on Saturday with reporters via Zoom after Georgia’s first scrimmage. “He was with us today. He got out there and he wasn’t allowed to practice. He’s not in pads yet. He’s going through acclimation period but he was out there, working out, did individual, did all the drills and things. Excited to have him back.”

Smart went on to add that he’s happy to have him back on the team, but didn’t go into the specifics of Branch’s situation.

“He had some personal things going on he had to go home and take care of,” Smart added. “He did that and he came back. I’m glad he’s with us and taking another shot at it.”

Branch was not in pads on Saturday and is going through an acclimation period where he’s to undergo COVID-19 testing before rejoining the Bulldogs.

New offensive line coach and former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke played a major role in getting Branch to flip his decision. Defensive backs coach Charlton Warren played a vital role as well. Branch chose Georgia over scholarship offers from Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Southern Miss and Tulane.

In high school, Branch was listed as a cornerback, but will likely be playing safety or STAR/MONEY at UGA. He was ranked as the nation’s No. 675 overall prospect and No. 51 cornerback, per the 247Sports Composite. He was the No. 29 overall player in Louisiana. The former three-star product helped Amite High School to a 10-5 record in 2019, including an appearance in the Class AA Semifinals.

Georgia signed four defensive backs in the 2020 class, including Branch, cornerbacks Kelee Ringo and Jalen Kimber, along with safety Major Burns. Georgia has 15 defensive backs on the roster after losing Divaad Wilson, who transferred to UCF to be closer to home. Ringo was a five-star prospect and the No. 1 cornerback in the country, but he will miss the 2020 season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum. Kimber and Burns were both four-star prospects, ranked as the No. 9 and cornerback and No. 13 safety, respectivley.

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.