Andre Branch's new motto: "Shut up and play"

by - Senior Writer -
Andre Branch recorded 46 tackles and eight tackles for loss last season. (Photos: Icon SMI)

CLEMSON – Defensive end Andre Branch said on Monday that he has a motto for the 2010 season: Shut up and play.

Branch burst onto the scene last season as the backup to bandit end Ricky Sapp, and he won 12th Man Award for the defense, as voted on by the coaching staff, after posting 46 tackles and eight tackles for loss, playing 337 snaps and appearing in all of Clemson’s games.

But the 6-5, 265-pound junior out of Richmond, Va., is looking for bigger and better things in 2010, and he said the coaching staff has told him that to get the most out of his abilities, he has to learn to sometimes control how much he says.

“I am a jokester,” Branch said after practice Monday. “Me and Da’Quan Bowers sat down and we had a talk, and we are going to hold each other accountable. If one of us sees the other getting out of line, then the other one is going to check him. It’s time to get serious, and you are going to see a big turnaround from me and Da’Quan this season.

“We are like brothers, and we have to hold each other accountable. Last year, I played around a lot and I joked a lot, and when I looked back on it, I realized there were some plays I could have made. Last year, I played a lot, but I also joked a lot. So this season I am serious, it’s all about business. This year, I don’t want that stuff to happen.”

Branch said that defensive ends coach Chris Rumph prompted him last season to talk less.

“Coach Rumph told me to shut my mouth and play football,” he said. “If I don’t shut my mouth, it can throw you off on the field, and when Coach Rumph told me that, that is when I emerged and people figured out who I was.

“In the trenches, you have to talk trash, that is how defense is – but at the same time, if you talk trash and don’t back it up, it’s pretty much pointless. So now I come to practice to work. You have to practice hard to play hard in the game. He said to just shut my mouth, clock in, and things would start coming through and they did.”

Head coach Dabo Swinney said the coaches don’t want to change Branch’s attitude – just help him learn to focus his energies better.

“This is a game of emotion, and he is an emotional guy, a fiery guy, and that is what you want,” Swinney said. “He is always on the edge, but you want to be productive and channel that the right way, and not let people bait you into losing focus, which is what happens sometimes. You get a cheap shot, or somebody says something about your mama, and next thing you know you are lining up wrong and not doing your job.

“He is a really good player, and his motor runs all the time, which is what you want. But we talked to him about keeping focus, staying the moment, and playing the next play. He is capable of being a good leader, and he is an outstanding leader on the defense. Guys like him, and they will follow his lead. Hopefully, he will lead in a positive way, and he has done a great job of that so far.”

Branch said that he and Bowers have set goals for the season, and Rumph has set goals for them as well.

“We have our goals, and we’ve told everybody we have to get a sack every time we come on the field,” Branch said. “Coach Rumph also sets standards for us, and we have a pads sessions, he tells us how many sacks we have to get. And if we don’t get them, then we have to do up-downs. So that pushes us, but it makes us better.”

He then said that as the only new starter on the defensive line this season, he is afraid to fail.

“Last year, I just got an opportunity and I ran with it,” he said. “When Ricky Sapp came out, I didn’t want to go in and be the downfall. I didn’t want my spot to be the reason we failed. But everybody on the defensive line this season was a starter last year except for me, and I don’t want to be the reason we go back – I want to be the reason we go forward.”

Some of the Clemson coaches have said that Branch is actually better against the run than Sapp was, but Branch dismissed that notion and said he just plays aggressive.

“I just go out there and try and make plays,” he said. “Ricky was a great player, but I don’t focus on another player. I just learn from their mistakes. I just have to focus on what I have to do. Against the run, if I don’t play aggressive and carry my hands with me, then I won’t be good. If you do that in this league, you are going to get trashed.”

Branch came out of Virginia’s Varina High School ranked as only the 47th-best prospect in the state, and he said that while he may have once been underrated, he wants to be underrated no more.

“I have been underrated my whole life. With things like that, you have to focus yourself and work hard. I don’t want to be underrated. Also, you should never stay satisfied; you should want to get better. If I come out here and go backwards, I might as well not have practiced that day.”
He ended the interview, however, by saying that Clemson fans would still see some of the old “swag” this season.

“Everyone knows me as a swag guy who makes plays. If one of my teammates makes a great play, then I am going to be around to celebrate with my teammate. That is how I am and that is the type of player I am.”

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