Alabama defensive lineman Daron Payne was one of the more sought after high schools recruits last season. Crimson Tide fans saw the potential last week against Georgia.
The 6-foot-2, 315-pound freshman could not be moved.
He consistently demanded a double-team, allowing Alabama’s linebackers to limit Georgia’s running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel for much of the game. Payne was able to get pressure on Bulldogs’ quarterback Greyson Lambert, despite his size and wet field conditions at Sanford Stadium. He recorded a tackle, a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup.
It suffered some personal foul calls, but much of Georgia’s penalties came on holding fouls from its offensive line. Holding onto Payne was its lone way of neutralizing him upfront.
Ex-Alabama players Terrence Cody and Jesse Williams were stalwarts at defensive tackle.
Both players made it difficult for opposing teams to run the ball inside, and Cody in particular, was not afraid to bat balls down or block field goals. He did it twice against Tennessee in 2009.
Payne, a native of Birmingham, Ala., has the upside of both Cody and Williams. He is already one of the strongest players in the weight room, and talent wise, Payne is one of few freshmen that is playing on defense. He has three tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.