Tyvon Branch #33 SS
Height: 6-0 Weight: 210 Age: 28
Born: 12/11/1986 Syracuse , NY
Experience: 7th season
High School: Cicero-North Syracuse HS [Cicero, NY]
Selected By: Oakland Raiders
Pick (Overall): 1 (100)
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.