COLLEGE PARK, MD. – Move over Will Likely, you’ve got another “mighty-mite” to contend with in the Terps’ secondary at College Park.
Tennessee transfer and former H.D. Woodson High School (Washington, D.C.) four-star standout corner D'Andre Payne, all 5-foot-9, 180-pounds of him soaking wet (and that may be generous) has hit the ground running in his first Terps camp this spring at UMD.
The freshman Payne, who arrived as a walk-on mid-year and must pay is own way this semester, also has to sit out a season under NCAA transfer rules. But that hasn’t slowed the former Volunteer, who played in a handful of games as a true freshman at Knoxville but grew homesick, from already making a splash in the newly-configured Terps secondary under first-year position coach Darrell Perkins.
Midway through camp, the likeable little guy had rung up a dozen PBUs and picks, with a constant nose for the ball and presence on the defensive backline, helping a low-depth position for the future when he becomes eligible in 2016. For now, he is quickly building a resume for a full scholarship, likely a lot sooner than later and maybe by the fall.
“He’s a young man that’s really working hard and really trying to do all of the things we are asking him to do,” Randy Edsall said. “And he has, he’s made some plays out there in practice, and again, I think the big thing for him is to really work his technique and really get better at learning all the things that are going on. But he is out there competing and hustling knowing that here is a guy who is going to have so sit for a year, but he’s taken advantage of the opportunities that he’s getting.”
Payne was a former Mike Locksley recruit who when it came down to it, Maryland never pushed very hard the first time around, which remains a bit of a head-scratcher. He is also a popular, local kid tied deeply into many DMV prep prospects that he grew up with in grassroots training groups and the like. He’s also at a program the Terps would probably like to have more recruiting success if the right prospects come along. Payne was a standout student as well at Woodson.
Said Terps offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Locksley, who has seen Payne disrupt his offense each day in camp this month:
“Obviously a kid that we knew a lot about, we recruited him, and had an opportunity to come home. And he has done well as far as I can see from our side. But you know, a great kid,” Locksley said.
Payne said it was a natural move for him, heading home, a decision he made at the end of December, indicating “embrace the program, let them stay home, that this is a program that is trying to build and try to keep guys at home instead of going to other places,” Payne said.
Payne is a soft-spoken hard-working kid who said being a “walk-on isn’t that bad, as far as football-wise,. But oh yeah, of course, I am working to get the scholarship. And every day I just come in with a mindset that I am going to be the best that I can be whether I am a walk-on or a scholarship player,” Payne said.
He said the 15 camp practices will be huge for him, “to prove that I can be on the field here.”
The template is there for Payne, as others like Levern Jacobs has thrived down on scout team during their year off.
“Every time I step on the field it’s a blessing,” Payne said.
Payne would have come to UMD the first time around had Maryland pushed harder, but bygones are now bygones and he is attacking his new role. He said the UT experience was a great “learning experience” last year and he made a lot of strong relationships. But now here, with a similar defense as in Knoxville, he has felt a seamless transition.
During Saturday’s first big camp scrimmage, in Byrd, Payne had two big plays late in pressure situations. He ran down Terps back Albert Reid and tackled him in-bounds near the sideline to keep the clock running in two-minute drill, while he had a PBU two plays later as defense kept the offense out of the end zone in a red-zone situation. Payne has seemingly been around a lot of balls running second team this month, under Edsall the first 10 days of camp, Perkins ever since coming on board from Old Dominion last month.
Payne has especially been a thorn in the side of quarterback Perry Hills, who he has picked a few times and has a half-dozen PBUs off of this month. Payne anticipates well and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in there either to make a hit or run support, despite his smallish frame. He also has a few TFLs to his credit this month, dropping backs in the backfield either off runs or screen/swing passes. He’s also broken up his share of Shane Cockerille throws as well this month.
“He’s very good,” Cockerille said. “He’s a quiet kid, you never notice when he is around, but out there on the field he is a monster. He makes really good reads, and I think he reads through our three-step, five-step timing, so he’s definitely coming around and making his presence known.”
Said Edsall, in summary, of his new kid on the block, and the secondary as a whole:
“I think the DBs are getting a lot better, and getting better from a technique standpoint and playing at a high level,” Edsall said. “And they are talking and communicating well with each other. And he [Payne] is working extremely hard…and he has taken advantage of all of his reps he’s getting this spring.”
Payne said he likes new DBs coach Perkins, as he is more of a teacher than a yeller, Payne said. He said his own strengths are his ability to be patient playing off, his first step, while he needs to work on his press technique.
“But I got quick instincts and speed and able to understand what route concepts are coming with each formation and stuff like that, down and distance, stuff like that,” Payne said.
Payne also said the “Rocky Top” fight song is out of his head, “but I got to learn the Terps song now,” he quipped.
D'Andre Payne Back Where He Belongs
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