New Syracuse football RB commit has persevered, to provide strong depth

Syracuse football (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse football (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

JJ Branham, a talented running back from Columbus, Ohio, verbally committed to Syracuse football this past Monday via Twitter. Although his pledge to the Orange is only a few days old, I’m already a big fan of this young man.

Since his verbal commitment, he’s conducted a couple of interviews, and those reports provide a snapshot into Branham’s life and football journey, both of which reflect perseverance, determination and someone who has plenty of skills to provide additional depth to the ‘Cuse running back room ahead of the 2023 season.

As a three-star prospect in the 2019 class coming out of Northland High School in Columbus, Branham was rated the No. 61 running back across the country in this cycle, per 247Sports. His offer sheet was solid, including teams such as Boston College, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Eastern Michigan, among others.

Per recruiting services, he also held interest from some big-time programs including Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Southern California, Iowa, Rutgers and Louisville.

New Syracuse football RB commit JJ Branham has a fascinating, touching story.

According to media reports, Branham committed to Eastern Michigan out of high school and took a redshirt for one season. He decided to transfer but wasn’t able to find a new team. Per an eye-opening article from SyracuseOnSI publisher Mike McAllister, Branham was homeless for several months.

He didn’t play football in the 2020 or 2021 seasons. During those years, he worked a variety of jobs, but Branham didn’t give up on playing football in college. According to McAllister’s piece, in January of 2022, Branham reached out to Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, which I’ve read is considered one of the top junior-college programs nationwide.

Branham was able to sign with Blinn, and in the 2022 season for the Buccaneers, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Branham had a fantastic showing. According to the Blinn Web site, in 2022, Branham competed in nine games. He rushed 107 times for 648 yards, an excellent 6.1 yards per carry, while scoring seven touchdowns on the ground.

McAllister reports that in 2022, Branham received inclusion on the All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference first team. Some Division I squads began to take notice in Branham, given his stellar play for Blinn, but that interest wasn’t consistent, except for Syracuse football.

"Branham told McAllister that he received a scholarship offer from the Orange a couple of months ago. “Syracuse stuck with me for the whole process, about three or four months. They kept up that relationship. They were pretty much the only one who kept it consistent with me. With me, I’m a loyalty guy. If you’re loyal to me, I’m loyal to you. So I ended up committing to Syracuse.”"

As he was being recruited by the ‘Cuse, Branham says that he has forged a strong relationship with Syracuse football running backs coach Mike Lynch. “Real swell guy,” Branham said of Lynch to McAllister. “Loyal and so am I. We literally gelled as soon as we had our first conversation. He also recruited me out of high school. Mike Lynch is a real cool guy. Great guy.”

I’m pumped that JJ has pledged to the ‘Cuse. He seems like a terrific young man. I’ll be curious to see if he ends up as a contender for significant minutes at running back for Syracuse football in the upcoming 2023 season.

Word broke on Wednesday afternoon that sophomore LeQuint Allen Jr. has reached a settlement with Syracuse University and will be able to play in the 2023 stanza, according to multiple reports, including one from McAllister.

Allen is likely to take over the starting role at running back in 2023, after star RB Sean Tucker headed to the pros. The ‘Cuse does have multiple other running backs on its 2023 roster as well.

Those RBs include freshman Muwaffaq Parkman, freshman Ike Daniels, redshirt freshman Joshua Escobar, redshirt junior Juwaun Price, redshirt sophomore Mario Escobar and Deston Hawkins out of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., who verbally committed to Syracuse football toward the end of May.

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