Cullman’s Brannon headed for the Tide

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Wesley Britt

Photo: Hunter Brannon, left, with his proud uncle, and former Tide player, Wesley Britt

CULLMAN – A week before the start of fall practice in his final season at Cullman High School, offensive lineman Hunter Brannon got something off his mind.

He made the decision to play collegiate football at the University of Alabama. The 6'4", 290-pound lineman was looked at by several schools, but chose the defending national champion Crimson Tide after attending a recruiting event at the Capstone last weekend.

According to reports, Brannon was excelling in a series of drills that caught the attention of Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Saban sent a messenger to get Brannon and have him come into his office for a nice conversation between coach and prospect.

Saban was so impressed with Brannon's work ethic that he offered him a letter of intent for the 2017 recruiting class.

Brannon kindly accepted.

But before he suits up in crimson and white, he has one more season with the black and gold for Cullman.

Practice for the 2016 season begins on Monday with the Bearcats locked in for their season opener Aug. 19 at their longtime rival, the Hartselle Tigers.

The teams will meet each for the first time on opening night. This will take place at Hartselle's J.P. Cain Stadium and will be the 95th meeting between the two. The series stands at 45-45-4.

Brannon is part of an experienced line that Cullman will count on for great success in 2016. He joins Tyler Nunnelley, Colton Oden and Trevor Crider as returnees in the scrimmage line.

Brannon and his friends in the trenches will look to protect quarterbacks Ross Crocker and Fletcher Jennings, plus open holes for the running game, led by Ezra Banks.

Last season, Brannon made an impact early on the line as Cullman started strong with five wins in its first six games. Then the Bearcats suffered a 14-13 loss at home to Hartselle Oct. 9 and they would lose momentum with back-to-back setbacks against Muscle Shoals and Russellville to end the regular season.

But thanks to a 13-10 win at Decatur on Oct. 16, the Bearcats were able to squeeze out a 3-3 record in 6A, Region 8 and clinched the fourth seed to the playoffs.

It will be a very different 2016 for Brannon and his teammates as Cullman has been placed into Region 6 by the AHSAA along with Albertville, Oxford, Fort Payne, Pell City, Southside-Gadsden and Brewer.

The non-region games are with Hartselle, followed by North Jackson in the home opener Aug. 26 then Fayette County in mid-season and Chelsea to end the regular schedule Oct. 30.

Eight new opponents will be looking to challenge Brannon and the Bearcats with Hartselle and Fayette County the only teams back on the schedule that they faced the previous season.

Brannon's commitment to U of A follows Owen Lovell and Jacob Heatherly who have committed to the Tide’s baseball program after graduation in 2017. Former Bearcat standout Lawson Schaffer will enter his sophomore year on the Bama basketball team while ex-Lady Bearcat Claire Jenkins will start her first season at the Capstone in the fall with the softball squad.