Miami recruiting: WR Jeremiah Payton works toward big senior year with much-needed help
Miami is on its way to one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. David Wilson and the DieHards.com team are in the eye of the storm to help you track the Hurricanes. Read his daily notebooks here at 6:30 p.m. ET from Sunday through Thursday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Miami recruiting news.
Jeremiah Payton adds accolade with invite to The Opening Finals
The 2017 season wasn’t always the best showcase of Jeremiah Payton’s talents. The 4-star wide receiver was frequently forced into action at quarterback for Duncan U. Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Fla. Instead of putting his complete skill set as a receiver on display, Payton often just got to show off his athleticism and overall football ability.
The situation has finally changed entering Payton’s senior year. Devon Lingle, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback in the 247Sports.com 2020 rankings, is ready to take the reins as a junior for Duncan U. Fletcher. Payton will be his top target — just about as good a top target any quarterback could ask for. The 247Sports composite rankings peg Payton as the No. 56 player in the Class of 2019. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound senior committed in March to play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
On Thursday, he earned yet another accolade. The elite receiver landed an invitation to The Opening Finals, which begin June 30
“This year I’m just going to kick it out and see how everything plays,” Payton told DieHards after securing his trip to Frisco, Texas. “It’s just a relief.”
Four more playmakers headed to #TheOpening Finals.
Congrats boys, see y’all in Dallas. pic.twitter.com/cmfUaBgvct
— The Opening (@TheOpening) May 10, 2018
Payton thrived throughout the offseason camp circuit. He was one of the top performers at The Opening Miami regional in February, then used the Under Armour All-America Camp in Orlando, Fla., to earn his spot in the January game. As he moves back to wideout full time on offense — he also may start at safety — Payton should only continue to improve.
“Basically, I’ve just been working on getting in and out of my breaks on routes,” Payton said. “Other than that, just increasing strength and definitely speed. That’s just about it.”
Payton got the latest glimpse of his potential future April 14, at Hard Rock Stadium during the Hurricanes spring game. Payton committed to Miami on Feb. 20 and visited a handful of times since. His latest trip, however, gave him a closer look at the quarterbacks who may eventually be throwing to him.
Malik Rosier seems likely to start this year but will graduate after the season, giving way to quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams. Both freshmen flashed excellence, while freshman wide receiver Brian Hightower stole the show with more than 100 receiving yards.
“The young wide receivers were playing real well, all three quarterbacks came in and showed some impressive stuff, so that’s definitely a plus,” Payton said. “It was definitely nice to see that.”
The Hurricanes’ class has gotten quite a bit stronger since Payton committed, too. At one point, Payton was the only blue-chip prospect in Miami’s 2019 class. Since the start of April, four more have joined on.
RELATED: 2019 Miami recruiting big board
Although from the Jacksonville metropolitan area, Payton seems as likely to stick in the class as any commit, even the South Florida prospects. Payton has yet to visit another serious suitor since he committed and doesn’t have anything planned, although he’d like to take some official visits.
Football is the focus now, but that shifts to the current recruiting class this summer. All the new additions means Payton has plenty of new faces to meet. He’s excited to help build the relationship.
“Right now, we haven’t built one just yet,” Payton said. “I know soon we’re going to end up building one and once we build one it will be pretty good.”
Miami offers pair of Georgia defensive linemen
Miami came up just short with one of Georgia’s top defensive linemen when 4-star weakside defensive end Kevin Harris picked Alabama on May 1. On Monday and Tuesday, the Hurricanes began pursuing two more of the Peach State’s best at.
First came an offer Monday to Colby Wooden, a 3-star strongside defensive end from Archer High School in Lawrenceville. On Tuesday, the Hurricanes followed it up with an offer for 5-star defensive tackle Travon Walker of Upson-Lee High School in Thomaston.
Blessed to receive an offer from Miami‼️ pic.twitter.com/MfxSeByxn9
— Travon Walker (@D1Figure_) May 15, 2018
— COLBY W (@CJW_21) May 15, 2018
Defensive line is a major priority for the Hurricanes in 2019 and without a depth of top-tier prospects in South Florida, Miami has had to look elsewhere. Walker is clearly one of the best, checking in at No. 25 overall in the entire class. Clemson, Alabama and Georgia are among the leaders for 6-5, 250-pound defensive lineman. The Hurricanes have ground to make up if they want to land Walker, who could also play defensive end in certain defenses.
While Wooden is only the No. 49 player in Georgia, he has major powers lining up. Florida State, Clemson, Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee are among the programs pursuing Wooden, who told 247Sports.com’s Anna Hickey in April that Clemson and Auburn are his top 2.
The 6-4, 235-pound end missed most of his junior season due to an injury. Depending on how much more he grows, Wooden could play either defensive end or defensive tackle in the Hurricanes’ 4-3 defense.
Wooden wasn’t the only Peach State prospect to pick up a Miami offer Monday. Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes handed out a Class of 2020 offer to Zykeivous Walker, a 4-star outside linebacker from Schley Middle High School in Ellaville.
— Zykeivous Walker (@Zykeivous10) May 14, 2018
Walker, whom 247Sports ranks as the No. 11 outside linebacker in the 2020 class, already possesses double-digit offers, with Florida State, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Tennessee among the suitors.
The 6-4, 250-pound linebacker piled up 74 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries as a sophomore. He also pulled in 12 catches for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns as a tight end.
Walker has yet to narrow down his list of choices. The junior did, however, unofficially visit the Seminoles on March 31.
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