By Gray Gardner.
Defensive end Andre Branch met with members of the media early Monday afternoon and talked about the Maryland game, his relationship with DaQuan Bowers, and the team’s upcoming game with Georgia Tech.
What did the win against Maryland do for this football team?
AB: It put us back on. We were on a three game losing streak, so we’re kind of back. It definitely felt good to win a game. We’re back on our path.
Especially mentally do you think?
AB: Mentally we were there because we had a team meeting after we lost to North Carolina. So mentally that definitely wasn’t it. We just wanted to win a game.
What do you think about DaQuan Bowers getting out there and getting after it?
AB: DaQuan is an amazing player so he’s just playing how I know he can play. That’s not something I was not used to.
How has he taken his game to another level?
AB: DaQuan, you know, he has crazy ability. He is just playing to his ability and everyone is seeing that now. He used to do some things last year that pretty much didn’t help the team. If anything he’d go out looking for plays. But when he just plays and does what he’s supposed to do, you see what’s going on now with all his tackles, sacks, tackles for loss – they’re just coming for him. He’s definitely playing lights out right now. He’s capable of keeping that up. It’s going to be a great year for him.
What have you learned most from playing with DaQuan?
AB: Me and him, we’re like brothers. So we hold each other accountable with everything we do. Playing with him, we don’t really focus on getting our stats. If we see each other down or something we tell each other, “Hey, you got to step up, you got to step up.” If he gets a sack I’m just as happy if I would have gotten it because he’s just like a brother to me. So when I see him shining, it just makes me happy. If one of us is doing it, then hey, both of us are. As a person and as a player he’s just a great guy.
How much easier has it made it with him drawing the attention that he has during the game?
AB: I can’t really say it’s made it easier because it feels like opposing teams’ offenses really focus on our defensive line. I mean last week I got double-teamed a whole bunch with chip blocks and guards coming back on me. We’re all getting the same thing.
How important is it to learn that, even as a great player, you have to fight to play within the defensive system?
AB: Coach Steele tells us that all the time. He always says, “Great players come to play but also you have to play in the system because great players can lose games for you.” When he says that he’s basically saying, if you’re a playmaker, go make plays, but don’t go out of your way to make a play, because that could hurt the team.
How does depth help how well DaQuan and the rest of the line are able to perform?
AB: Depth really helps. It’s not like you’re out there like, “Man, I can’t come out if I’m tired.” That always helps because I know I have someone just as good as me right behind me. That helps knowing there’s never going to be a fall off. So if I get tired, Malliciah (Goodman) or Kourtnei (Brown) will come in and they’ll take my spot and it shouldn’t be a fall off at all. With the inside guys, those guys are just working hard. In practice you pretty much don’t even know who the starters are. That’s just how it is.
Talk about how the defensive line has kind of been constant through the defenses struggles in the first couple of weeks.
AB: Our defensive line, we always want to be known as number one in the nation. I don’t know how we are this year right now, but I feel like, with our talent, we can be there. We’re never satisfied, so that’s what really makes us work harder. When one of us gets a sack, that just makes all of us work harder to get one. And that’s just the type of people we are – we hold each other accountable with everything we do. It just shows how hard we work.
How much fuel or motivation do you guys have knowing how things have gone in that series against Georgia Tech?
AB: Georgia Tech is a good opponent and we lost to them twice last year. But like coach Swinney says, it’s just another game. It’s the biggest game because it’s the next game. But yeah, we got a little chip on shoulders about that.
I was going to say, there has to be a little something there.
AB: Yeah, there’s something there. Definitely. That’s always going to be there just because we know how close we were. But we’re ready for this game.
Do you think about that last drive from the championship game where you had one last chance to stop them but just couldn’t get it done?
AB: That was a whole ‘nother team. That last drive, I thought about it for probably a week after it happened. But it’s over now. I can’t do anything about that. This is a totally different team we got. They have a totally different team. So we’ll see how it pans out Saturday.
Are you guys the best four-man rush of anyone you’ve seen?
AB: I’m very confident in my defensive line. I don’t think there’s anybody that can have a four-man rush like us. But we definitely still have some stuff to get together and we’re still learning. Like I said, it’s still in the middle of the season. We’re never satisfied with the things we do.
Are you trying to develop an identity as a group?
AB: We’re trying to develop an identity as a team, not a group. We just want to be champions. Whatever it takes, we just want to win.
Looking back over tapes from Georgia Tech last year, what are some of the things you think you could have done better?
AB: I can’t really say there are things we could have done better. We had a gameplan and we just got out-executed. During that time they just were better than us. That’s just how that works.
Do they give you more trouble than anyone else with that option?
AB: You know that’s difficult because you have a week of practice to know everything and if you mess up on one thing it can be to the house. We have a great coaching staff and they really put us in the right positions at the right times. I trust them just like they trust us.
Is there some recall though, the fact that you played them twice last year?
AB: Yeah I mean we know what’s coming. Everyone knows what’s coming. The big thing is, is everyone in the right position. That’s their big thing. Because if one person’s wrong – it can be to the gates.
That’s kind of scary isn’t it?
AB: It’s kind of scary but that’s the game of football.
It’s not like that with everybody though.
AB: I mean everybody’s got a different gameplan.