USC Football Defensive Back Zion Branch had high hopes for this season, and so did the coaching staff. He had been receiving high praise from the coaching staff this offseason before he went down with a lower extremity injury. There was a chance he would receive meaningful playing time as a true freshman.
The injury made that possibility a bit murky, because there was really no timetable for when he would be back at full strength. With him being seen dressed out earlier in the season, it appeared that maybe he'd have a shot to play at some point, though. Now, however, that shot appears to have disappeared.
Lincoln Riley addressed Branch's injury on Thursday during a press conference, and pointed out both some good and bad associated with his recovery. The good news is that he's "very very far ahead of schedule" in his recovery from knee surgery. The bad news is that he isn't expected to play in the bowl game for the Trojans this year.
At least he's progressing a lot in his recovery. It's truly a glass half-full vs. glass half-empty scenario because there's both good news and bad news. It's probably wise to just accept and be excited about Branch at least being back and healthy next season when the expectations for this defense will be higher.
Lincoln Riley also mentioned that Zion Branch is likely going to be a great player for USC Football.
According to Lincoln Riley, Zion Branch "will be a tremendous player" with the USC Football program, which was another nice reminder to hear from coach.
It's no wonder as to why he feels this way, as Branch was a four-star prospect out of Bishop Gorman High School, and was the No. 1 2022 recruit in all of Nevada. He was the No. 6 safety recruit in all of America, and the No. 58 player in the country (all recruiting rankings and ratings in article are as of 247Sports).
Branch will have the chance to contend for a starting spot next year, at least at the nickel if he doesn't get the free safety job. Obviously, Calen Bullock is going to lock up strong safety. Lots also depends on what happens with players potentially leaving for the NFL or hitting the portal.
SC at least knows, however, that they have a great prospect in Branch who will be ready to hit the field next year at no risk. That's an outstanding option to have. Especially since quite a bit needs to be shaken up on the defensive side of the ball for the Trojans.