Did Five-Star Freshman Zachariah Branch Already Reach Expectations? USC’s True Freshman Addresses His Debut

What expectations did Zachariah Branch have heading into his breakout evening for USC? From himself to his team?

On the USC campus, carrying five stars doesn’t apply to a Yelp review for a bookstore or a convenience store; it applies to incoming freshman football players with astronomical expectations — à la Zachariah Branch.

He earned five stars for his uncanny speed, which made him an internet sensation during his prep career. He was given the five stars for delivering dynamic play after dynamic play at the national high school power, Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas. And he earned the star ranking while being given the early comparison to Super Bowl champ and the NFL’s fastest man, Tyreek Hill, by 247Sports.

But with the number “five” additionally attached to the No. 1 he wore at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in his highly anticipated college football debut, did Branch already live up to expectations following the Trojans’ 56-28 romp of San Jose State?

Zachariah Branch Addresses ‘E’ Word Following Breakout Night

Branch only caught four passes for 58 yards — which didn’t make him the sole receiving leader. He did catch a 25-yard touchdown. However, he added 162 yards on returns… and 97 came in this breathtaking kickoff return touchdown that took the air out of San Jose State.

But again, did he achieve expectations? Including for himself and the expectations from head coach Lincoln Riley?

“I didn’t really have any expectations,” Branch said after the game. “Coach Riley and the rest of the staff just told me to go out there and not try to do too much, execute your job, and I mean the rest will follow. I was blessed enough to get those opportunities, and I just tried to capitalize on them.”

Even Riley himself downplayed the notion that Branch had a bevy of expectations for his college football debut.

“He made an impact on offense, he made an impact on special teams. He earned it,” said Riley, as he went from not allowing freshmen to speak to the media to allowing Branch to sit alongside him in the press conference. “He did a good job of not trying to do too much, which guys in their first game will sometimes do.”

Branch Also Given Final Word

But before talking to the L.A. media, USC had a social media content creator hand a phone over for one final message after a victory.

This time, it wasn’t Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams with the final message, or returning wide receiver Tahj Washington.

It was Branch with the final word. And instead of glorifying his stellar debut, he gave more love to his teammates:

For his efforts, Branch landed on the College Football Network Team of the Week for Week 0 as well as a specific Honorable Mention on our Week 0 Players of the Week.