Bringing the Payne

South Carolina extended an offer on Friday morning to Columbia (SC) hard hitting safety Chris Payne, whose high school coach Kemper Amick refers to as "the best football player in the state of South Carolina." Where do the Gamecocks now stand with this punishing in-state defender, and is Payne a candidate to become USC's first commitment in the 2009 recruiting class? Read inside to find out.

The 5'10", 190 pound Payne, who runs a 4.49 second forty yard dash, has grown up following South Carolina, and he was excited to pick up an offer from the Gamecocks on Friday morning. According to Payne, he likes several factors about the USC program, and the Gamecocks could be tough to beat now that they've entered the mix.

"I love their facilities and the academic center they're about to build. Once they get that, they're going to be one of the top programs in the nation. I really like the coaching staff, the atmosphere and the surroundings. I've gone to a bunch of their games, and I just love the atmosphere," said Payne. "It'll be hard to knock them off because I just really love their program."

Payne, who attended USC's junior day earlier this month, has also developed a good relationship with his Gamecock recruiter.

"David Reaves is my recruiter. He's a funny guy and outgoing. He's just cool. I love him. He's a classic person."

USC joins North Carolina and Michigan State as schools that have officially offered Payne. He is also receiving strong interest from major programs like Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

While South Carolina may have emerged as the team to beat for Payne's services, he still plans to take a few visits before coming to a decision on his college choice.

"I'm going to take a few trips, but I want to make (a commitment) as early as possible. It'll probably come before my senior season."

When the time comes to make his commitment, Payne will look for a few key factors to help him decide on his college destination.

"The academics and how they graduate their athletes is important. I've also got to love the coaching staff."

Payne is a friend and teammate of fellow highly touted prospect DaMario Jeffrey, and according to Payne the two are strongly considering playing their college ball together.

"We want to play together. That's not my number one priority, but if at all possible that's what we really want to do. We really want to play together."

Payne, who totaled 139 tackles, 9 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions in his junior season, closed by describing what type of player he is one the gridiron.

"On defense, I'd call myself an in-the-box type of safety. I'm hard hitting and aggressive. I won't miss many tackles. I take perfect angles. Everybody says I play like Emanuel Cook. North Carolina's head coach (Butch Davis) even said I remind him of (Indianapolis Colt safety) Bob Sanders. That's who I like to play like because he plays the game so fast."

Payne will attend Clemson's junior day this weekend and plans to visit Alabama on March 7th.

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