Damon Payne is, arguably, the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle in the 2021 cycle, and he has made up his mind on where he will spend the next 3-4 years of playing career.
The Belleville High School (Belleville, Mich.) product and Sports Illustrated All-American candidate verbally committed to the University of Alabama on Sunday afternoon. He chose the Crimson Tide over Kentucky, Arizona State, USC, and LSU.
He also held offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Tennessee, Florida State, Penn State, Georgia, and Oklahoma, among many others.
Payne's recruitment has been led by Crimson Tide assistants Charles Huff and Freddie Roach. The 6-foot-4, 295 pound prospect has held an offer from Alabama since the spring of 2018 and last visited Tuscaloosa last fall.
He finished his junior campaign with 59 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. Michigan high school football is set to start on time, so, it appears Payne's senior season is a full go for now.
Payne is the Crimson Tide's second defensive tackle commit in the 2021 class, joining Anquin Barnes, who hails from Montgomery, Ala. He is the fourth five-star player to commit to Nick Saban's program, joining wide out Jacorey Brooks, and offensive tackle JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer.
Alabama's class now sits with 16 verbal pledges and is second to only Ohio State according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
SI All-American's full evaluation of Payne's game is below:
Prospect: Damon Payne
Status: SI All-American Candidate
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 295 pounds
Position: Defensive Tackle
School: Belleville (Mich.) Belleville
Schools of Interest: Penn State, Alabama, USC, Ohio State, LSU, Arizona State, Kentucky, Oregon and Michigan.
Projected Position: Defensive Tackle
Frame: Thick chest with some baby fat to lose. Adequate definition in traps and arms. Big legs and hips.
Athleticism: Throws shot put and discus in track and field. Plays left tackle on offense. Fires out with quick first step to engage. Strong and tough inside. Very good body quickness when asked to play in single gap. Plays with force and power. Surprisingly nimble with good change of direction in pursuit. Has good short-area quickness to finish.
Instincts: Solid ball-location skills post snap. Quick scheme read versus run. Very good body sync/coordination when clearing near-leg and hips at the point. Will chase and pursue backside. Relies heavily on swim/arm-over versus run and as a pass-rusher. Flashes an occasional swipe.
Polish: Plays across defensive front, lining up as 0, 1, 3, and even some 5-technique. Is versatile enough to penetrate and 2-gap. Has mass, along with enough quickness and change of direction ability to contribute early in career. Needs to improve block awareness when pursuing backside. Also must add more to hand-usage toolbox in both run and pass.