Freshman Patrick Payton getting up to speed ahead of first year on Florida State's defense
Patrick Payton is no stranger to adjusting quickly to new challenges on the football field.
Payton began his high school career at Miami High as a rangy, 6-3, 180-pound safety.
Soon after he transferred to national powerhouse Miami Northwestern for his junior season, Payton had transformed into a 6-5, 210-pound physical outside linebacker/edge rusher, who once had five sacks in a game.
Payton’s body is changing again these days in his first month as a freshman defensive end at Florida State.
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While talking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Payton said he’s gained around 15-20 pounds during his first few weeks working with Seminoles strength and conditioning coach Josh Storms as he bulks up to play defensive end or perhaps an edge rusher/outside linebacker role in college.
Payton, one of five defensive linemen in FSU’s 2021 class and one of four who arrived this summer, is ready to take on any role he’s asked to as he enters his first season in Tallahassee.
“(FSU defensive coordinator) Coach (Adam) Fuller believes in me a lot, so whatever he tells me to do or whatever position he needs me to play, that’s what I’m going to do,” Payton said.
Payton, a four-star prospect ranked the No. 15 linebacker in the nation by 247Sports after his senior year at Northwestern, was one of the prized defensive recruits of FSU’s 2021 class. He chose the Seminoles over several other FBS offers including Miami, Penn State and Nebraska.
Payton’s five-sack game came against fellow state powerhouse Miami Columbus and was part of his 17.5-sack junior season during Northwestern’s third consecutive state championship season at the time.
While his first year could end up being a mostly developmental year, Payton said he’s ready to do his part to help FSU rebuild following three consecutive losing seasons.
“I feel like what coach (Mike) Norvell and all of them are doing is trying to build something new,” Payton said. “I want to be a part of that. If we can do that, about 20 years down the road, I want to be able to say I was a part of the turnaround at Florida State.”
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Payton’s first challenge is to adjust to the increased speed of the college level, which he noticed immediately after his first workout session.
“It’s really just how fast practice moves,” Payton said. “Everything moves way faster in college, even warmups. You can’t walk around or nothing. You just have to move fast all the time.”
But if Payton’s track record is any indication, it shouldn’t be long before he gets acclimated and begins to impact a defense, which ranked 104th out of 130 FBS teams with only 10 sacks a year ago.
“When FSU got him, I knew it was a good get,” said longtime Florida football recruiting analyst Larry Blustein, who scouted Payton even before high school.
“When he first moved to defensive end, he’d let all the little guys get into his body because he was playing way too high. But then he had that great year because he learned how to play lower and got off the ball quicker. He developed into what a lot of people thought he’d be this past year. And if he continues to develop like that, given his physical attributes, he has a chance to excel and play at a high level.”
The Seminoles’ Miami connections have been influential in helping Payton adjust early on as he’s been working with Miami Central alum Keir Thomas, a defensive end transfer from South Carolina, as well as FSU’s Miami alums on its coaching staff.
“I knew coach (defensive analyst Randy) Shannon from UCF because he was recruiting me while he was there,” Payton said. “Coach Sabbath (Joseph), he’s from right around the way. They make sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Payton played middle linebacker and even some snaps at nickel corner late in his high school career and said he’s most comfortable lining up outside.
Payton will need his added size and muscle before he’s ready to take on the larger offensive linemen and tight ends at this level. But his versatility and athleticism should be a boon for FSU especially in the long-term as it tries to build a faster and more aggressive defense in the coming years.
“He’s coming into a good situation up there where they’re looking for improvement, not for him to immediately come in and dominate,” Blustein said. “He’s an intelligent kid and I think he’s going to pick things up quickly. He’s quick off the ball and that’s going to be a huge asset for him right off the bat.”
Reach Andre Fernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @FernandezAndreC.
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