All Payne did in his debut as the full-fledged starter was rush for 325 yards and four touchdowns. The next week was a 235-yard, five touchdown effort.
"I kind of was feeling the pressure taking over for Deontae, but I had played a lot my sophomore year," said Payne. "Last year, I just wanted to take care of business and take the team far. We were underdogs. We were picked to finish fourth place in our league and then we end up coming out on top, so that was a nice goal to accomplish."
Other goals included stamping his name as a recruit worth watching, and Payne did that in a season in which he finished with 1,928 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Payne was invited to UCLA's Meet & Greet late last month and then last week, got good news from the Bruin coaching staff.
"Coach (Wayne) Moses and Coach (Rick) Neuheisel were both talking with me a lot and then they emailed me to say they were ready to offer me. I called them and then they told me they were offering. I was kind of surprised. They had been saying they were impressed with me and how I carried myself. They offered me on Wednesday."
Payne said he was relieved to get the first offer, but he's not ready to make any decisions, choosing to see what other offers may come.
Payne attended USC's Junior Day on Saturday.
"It was good there," said Payne. "They had like 30 minute presentations and like 20 people talking and all this information. I enjoyed myself."
Payne said that his favorite school growing up was a school that has done well, but me be out of the norm for a Southern California native.
"Honestly, Boise State was my favorite team growing up," said Payne. "It's that blue field, it's always nice. And they've really been good the last few years. If Boise State offered, I wouldn't commit right away, but I'd have to really look closely there."
Payne stays in regular contact with Cooper, who missed his freshman year with a knee injury.
"We text back and forth all the time and he's really encouraging to me," said Payne. "I'm a different type of back than he was. I'm more of a power back. I'll run around but also run through someone."
Payne said he plans to camp at the Los Angeles Nike Camp in April, but other camps are up in the air.
Academically, he has a 3.0 GPA and will take the SAT this spring.