New Ole Miss wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler was hired at the beginning of January and is already making an impact on the recruiting trail. Three-star JaVonta Payton, who was recruited heavily by Tennessee, committed to the Rebels during a Wednesday morning ceremony, which came two weeks after he and his dad took an official visit to Oxford.
Ranked as the nation’s No. 82 receiver, the Nashville native also visited the Vols, Middle Tennessee State and Purdue before deciding on the Rebels. He was recruited to Tennessee by Vols wideout coach Zach Azzanni, one of the better recruiters in the country. The fact that Peeler was able to jump into the fray late and wrestle Payton away from an established SEC assistant bodes well.
Payton, the No. 17 overall prospect in the state of Tennessee, also holds notable offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Memphis, Tulane and Western Kentucky. He racked up 936 all-purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns as a senior.
How does he fit in?
The 6’1, 170-pounder is relatively new to the position, having just picked it up as a junior. But his athleticism and elusiveness in the open field should fit right into new offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s philosophy of “chasing space.”
“I believe [Ole Miss] fits his skill-set really well,” Payton’s dad, McKinley Young, told the Ole Miss Spirit during an official visit to Oxford. “JaVonta’s only been playing receiver for a year and a half. He’s always been a running back... He’s still kind of growing into the position and learning, but he does so many things naturally that a lot of great receivers do. He keeps working at it. His hips, the way he can drive, his speed to get on top of the defense, it definitely would be a great offense for him.”
Payton’s background as a running back will give Longo and Hugh Freeze lots of options when using him in the offense. I would look for JaVonta to eventually get involved in plenty speed sweeps, tunnel screens and quick hitches from the slot.
Of course, he’ll have to carve out playing time in one of the SEC’s deepest receiving corps. Rising sophomore Van Jefferson and redshirt freshman Tre Nixon will have a stranglehold on the slot receiver position for years, though Payton might be able to carve out a role on special teams—where Ole Miss hasn’t had a playmaking returner in forever—as soon as 2017.