USC wide receiver and return specialist Zachariah Branch has made it to the semifinals for the prestigious Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award, which recognizes the exceptional talent of freshman players in college football.
Branch has been capturing the college football world with his impressive agility and electrifying returns. Against Stanford, he skillfully returned a punt for a stunning 75-yard touchdown during the second quarter. He also showcased his incredible speed with a remarkable 96-yard kickoff return touchdown against San Jose State on August 26.
Not only has Branch displayed his return abilities, but he has also proven himself as a receiver. This season, he has scored two touchdown receptions, joining the elite ranks of Trojans like Adoree’ Jackson in 2016. In fact, Branch is just one of three USC players since 1971 to achieve the feat of having a punt return and kickoff return touchdown, as well as a receiving touchdown in the same season. The others who achieved this remarkable accomplishment are Jackson and Curtis Conway in 1992.
Branch’s versatility extends beyond his returns and receptions. He has contributed with four receptions for 30 yards and one carry for two rushing yards in the game against Stanford. Additionally, he has even added a rushing touchdown to his impressive statistics this season, scoring against Utah.
Branch’s exceptional performance has earned him recognition on a national level. He currently holds the top spot in the nation for combined kick returns with 641 yards. Moreover, he ranks second in the nation for punt returns with an average of 20.6 yards, kickoff return touchdowns, and punt return touchdowns, showcasing his impact on special teams.
Exciting times lie ahead as the finalists for the 6th annual Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award will be announced on November 29, 2023. Branch has a chance to bring home this prestigious award, and the winner will be revealed on December 27, 2023. The formal presentation of the award will take place at the Maxwell Football Club Awards in March 2024, alongside other top accolades in both college and professional football.