A massive 6-3, 335-pounder with quick feet and explosive power, Payne has done nothing this week in practice to tarnish his reputation as one of the nation’s top defensive tackles and said he is looking forward to the game, working on getting better, and trying to extend Alabama’s winning streak to seven games.“It’s fun because everybody out here is trying to compete,” Payne said. “It’s an honor for me is how I look at it.
“It’s just going to help me improve myself and see where I need to be for the next level.”
The biggest question surrounding Payne is where he is going to end up to play college football. With a top three of Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State, Payne won’t take any of his official visits before making a decision at the Under Armour All-American Game in Florida, but it’s not going to stop him from getting the heavy load off his back.
“I’m ready for Jan. 2 so I can go ahead and commit and get it out of the way,” Payne said. “Then I’ll just get back to business.”
Growing up a fan of the Auburn Tigers, Payne has had Alabama at or near the top of his list for much of the last year. Making a trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium for last year’s Iron Bowl and back on two occasions this season, he knows what to expect out of Gus Malzahn’s program and that’s one of the positives for him.
The biggest positive, however, is the lack of depth for the Tigers at his position. Losing seniors Jeffrey Whitaker, Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson and Ben Bradley, Auburn is in serious need of defensive tackles and that is one of the things that Payne said stands out to him at the moment.
“It’s just the family atmosphere they have and all of the defensive linemen they are losing this year,” Payne said. “That would be a great opportunity for me to come in and start or get a lot of playing time.
“That’s a big impact for me,” he added. “That’s my number one priority right now.”
Saying that the amount of phone calls and attention he has received for much of the season has been annoying at times, Payne said in the end he loves it because he considers it an honor to be one of the best players in the land. With just a few weeks left until he makes his decision and two all-star games to play, the defensive tackle said he already has in mind what he’s looking for out of a school as he begins to pinpoint his school of choice.
“It’s probably just the number of defensive linemen they are losing and the rotation,” Payne said of what he’s looking for. “It will be about the number of guys they’re getting in there and having the chance to play early.”
Payne In Action This Week At Alabama-Mississippi Practice