Miami’s 2018 recruiting class wasn’t highly ranked, there are some players emerging. True freshman receiver Jeremiah Payton might be the gem of this class. The Jacksonville native has made an indelible impact on the team, ever since he was an early enrollee this past year. Payton was rated as a consensus four-star, and was ranked as the eighth best recruit in all of Florida by ESPN. He was also tabbed as 12th best receiver in the 2019 class by 247Sports. According to 247Sports, Payton is the highest ranked recruit in Miami’s class, and he’s expected to contribute immediately this season.
The receiver has participated in a couple prestigious events for recruits, including The Opening in 2018, and the 2019 Under Armour All-American Game. Despite UM’s below average season in 2018, Payton never wavered on his commitment to the Canes, as he committed in February of 2018 and never decommitted from The U. The receiver, who attended Duncan U. Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, FL chose Miami despite some impressive offers from elsewhere. Payton had offers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, and Oregon, but decided to become a Hurricane.
Here’s John Garcia Jr’s (247Sports) evaluation on Payton.
“Long and lean pass catcher who is quicker than fast. Has ability to create separation as strong route runner. Frame can easily carry more weight with the potential to improve physicality both before and after the catch. Slippery prospect in open field. Can set up defender early in route and finish with strong hands. Routinely catches football away from body, even in traffic. Elite body control and ball skills. Effective both on the outside and in the slot. Willing blocker. Has a mature confidence about him. Should immediately play into wideout rotation at Power 5 program and hear his name called on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.”
Garcia compared Payton to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who was a second round pick in 2016. That isn’t a bad player to be compared to, as Boyd had two 1,000 yard seasons in college, and is coming off his first 1,000 yard season in the NFL in 2018.
The 6’1”, 195 lb wide receiver plays at a position with a lot of talent, so he might not see a lot of time right away. However, don’t be surprised if by mid-season Payton has emerged in the rotation. Junior WR Jeff Thomas and Senior WR KJ Osborn will be at the top of the depth chart, but after that, it’s up to a bunch of talented yet inexperienced receivers to break through.
Mike Harley Jr. is the most experienced receiver after those two, so he could begin the year at the top of the depth chart with Thomas and Osborn. After that, sophomores Dee Wiggins, Mark Pope, Brian Hightower, and the true freshman Payton will compete for playing time. Although he has the least experience of the bunch, a cast of characters from around the program have spoken highly of the freshman.
“Mature, right? [That’s] probably why he’s doing well on the field and kind of fitting in. If you didn’t know he was a 12th grader right now — which is really, what he should be — you’d feel he’s just one of the guys,” Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said. “And the hardest part is just taking that step up in terms of competitiveness. The pace of practice, college guys going up against you, he doesn’t look out of place, which kind of, again, shows who he is inside.”
Hightower, who is competing for playing time with the rookie, also spoke highly of Payton. “He’s doing great. I was an early enrollee, so I know how it feels to be an early enrollee. He’s come in and he’s dominated. He’s done everything he’s supposed to do and he’s playing up to our level. He’s competing just like me and just like every other receiver in that room. I’m proud of him.”
Although the Canes receiving room is deep, Payton is a highly-skilled recruit who could play his way into significant playing time this season. It’s clear those at UM think he’s special, so time will tell how impactful he can become.
Quotes from Diaz and Hightower courtesy of The Sun Sentinel