KNOXVILLE – Coach Butch Jones’ early recruiting success at Tennessee continued on Wednesday.
Four-star cornerback D’Andre Payne pledged to Jones and UT via Twitter, selecting the Vols over an impressive offer list of over 30 schools including Florida State, Clemson, Michigan, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State and LSU.
“Payne is a well-rounded corner from a scheme standpoint and would be higher up our board if he had a bit more size and top-end speed,” ESPN.com wrote of the 5-9, 170 pound native of Washington D.C. “He grows on you as a total football player the more you watch him and see his intangibles at the position.
“Has a shorter frame but is a muscular and tightly-wound athlete who plays bigger and stronger than his listed measurables suggest. Longer arms for his height and he uses his length in coverage. Flashes good play speed but might have better burst than top-end speed.”
Payne becomes the seventh member of Tennessee’s 2014 recruiting class and the third who will likely end up playing in the defensive backfield. He joins safety Todd Kelly Jr. and athlete Vic Wharton as three early commitments who could help rebuild UT’s struggling secondary.
Jones’ quick success for the 2014 class has the Vols as a consensus top-10 team in early team recruiting rankings. According to Rivals.com rankings, the Vols signed just five total four-star prospects in 2013. They already have four committed for 2014 with approximately 10 months left until signing day.
How he fits: Rebuilding the secondary after a disastrous 2012 campaign is one of Jones’ early tasks at UT. That started in the 2013 signing class when the Vols added five defensive backs and it appears 2014 will supply even more help with Kelly, Wharton and now Payne pledged.
There will certainly be competition for Payne. Corners with starting experience such as Daniel Gray and Justin Coleman will still be on campus when he arrives in 2014, but if he lives up to his current ranking, Payne should have a chance to compete for playing time early and potentially a starting role in his second or third year on campus.
ESPN.com: ESPN300 watch list
Rivals.com: 4-star, 236th best player in the nation
Scout.com: 4-star, 26th best CB in the nation
247Sports.com: 4-star, 175th best player in the nation
247Sports.com Composite: 4-star, 17th best CB in the nation
Tennessee’s 2014 commitments (247Sports Composite ranking)
CB D’Andre Payne (4-star)
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga