A threat to go the distance catching, running, or returning kicks, the versatile Payne is quickly becoming one of the hot names on the recruiting circuit these days.
Leading his team to a 10-1 record on the season heading into the third round of the playoffs, Payne's team won 47-8 last Friday night as he contributed six catches for 89 yards in very limited action. For the year he has 36 catches for 960 yards at wide receiver and has carried the ball 45 carries for 680 yards from the tailback spot to account for 20 combined touchdowns. Teams have only kicked the ball to him once on kickoffs this season and he returned it for 48 yards. He has touched the ball briefly on punt returns, but when he has, it has proven the teams right that kept away as he's been given seveb chances that add up to 200-plus yards and three touchdowns.
With numbers like that, it's no wonder that Payne has schools from all over vying for his services but he admits one school is leading the pack for his signature in February. With 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash and hands like gloves, Payne says that a group of Tigers have captured his eye.
"Right now Auburn is leading the rest of them," he notes. "Illinois, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Duke are all recruiting me as well. I went up there (Auburn) for the Ole Miss game and I met the coaches. Coach (Greg) Knox and (Noel) Mazzone seemed like real nice guys. I toured the campus and I liked the town a lot."
With just an unofficial visit to Middle Tennessee State to his credit this season, Payne says that he's got some big official visits coming up beginning this weekend when he makes a trip to Auburn to see the Alabama game in person. "I can't wait," he notes. "It's something I've been looking forward to for quite a while." He also has visits set for Illinois on December 7, Clemson on January 12 and Georgia Tech on January 19.
A three-year starter at wide receiver, Payne notes that he has made several improvements in his game since he first stepped on the football field. "I've improved my blocking a lot this year," he notes. "I have good hands and good quickness. I'm real good at punt returns and I can see the field real well, I can just see the holes real easy."
With offers from several top academic institutions, it's no surprise that Payne will be looking hard at schools that appeal to his mind as well as soul. He says that there are certain things that schools must show him to be there in the end.
"Just the coaching staff and the tradition of the school," he says are the important parts of the athletic side of schools. "Academics have to be good as well. I want to major in either sports medicine or business so that's important."
Premium Plus Extra: Lacking in wide receiver depth on the outside with the loss of Tim Carter after this season, Auburn is expected to sign four receivers in this year's recruiting class to bolster the position and give Knox the rotation possibilities he craves. The Tigers already have a commitment from Louisiana star Toby Ziegler (6-1, 185, 4.5) and are in the running for Alabama stars Montae Pitts (6-1, 185, 4.3) and Benjamin Obomanu (6-2, 182. 4.38) as well as several other top notch receivers. If the Tigers can snare the two in-state stars in the next few months, it could one of the strongest wide receiver hauls for one recruiting class in recent Auburn history.