When three-star 2021 cornerback prospect Devonta Smith committed to Ohio State in March, following four-star defensive back teammate Jaylen Johnson's commitment to the Buckeyes two months prior, the two Cincinnati La Salle standouts lined themselves up to be the next Lancers to join the scarlet and gray, following in the footsteps of kicker Jake Seibert (2020) and punter Drue Chrisman (2016).
Their commitments also jump-started the conversations about who the next man up would be, and the consensus (if not unanimous) opinion is 2022 running back Gi'Bran Payne is the best La Salle candidate to become a Buckeye down the road.
Payne was ranked as the seventh-best in-state recruit, 24th-best running back and 206th-best overall player in the sophomore class when 247Sports' initial rankings were released last month. He has 15 offers thus far, including from Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, and if Payne does what he needs to do in order to show Tony Alford he's deserving, he could land an offer from Ohio State later this year, too.
“Coach Alford has mentioned that when our relationship continues to grow stronger when talking over the phone and going on visits, he can see himself offering me a scholarship,” Payne told Eleven Warriors. “He also wants to see me play my first game of junior year, and he will really know, he says.”
In Smith's case, the talented junior was offered in mid-March and committed to the Buckeyes just two days later. While Smith's circumstance is different because he's a year older and was at a stage in his recruiting process where he felt more comfortable to make a decision, an on-the-spot (or at least close to on-the-spot) commitment is a possibility for any in-state prospect who gets an Ohio State offer.
Just like Dayton sophomore C.J. Hicks told us that he would continue being patient even when he received an offer from the Buckeyes, Payne says he would take a similar patient approach.
“If they offer me, I wouldn’t think of committing right away,” Payne said. “It would take some time for me.”
Payne says things are going well all-around, and that includes continuing to build relationships with college coaches – mainly Michigan, which he says has been recruiting him the hardest, plus other programs like Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska that “off the top of my head” are doing a good job of building relationships with him.
“My relationships with Ohio State coaches are only getting stronger and stronger,” Payne said. “I probably have the strongest relationship with Coach (Tim) Hinton as of right now, but the relationship with me and Coach Alford is coming along. I talk to these coaches the most.”
As for his current day-to-day life amid the coronavirus pandemic, Payne says “a typical day for me is to do the workout my coaches send out, go run, and I only talk to coaches one time a week so I’ll call on the day I usually do and if I have work, then go to work.”
“If they offer me, I wouldn’t think of committing right away. It would take some time for me.”– Cincinnati La Salle 2022 RB Gi'Bran Payne
At this point, with this summer's camps potentially being outright canceled, there's not much more that Payne can do other than continue to work out on his own to improve his recruiting profile down the road. If he puts in enough work, it's possible he will become the eighth La Salle alum to join the Buckeyes. According to research by Eleven Warriors' Matt Gutridge, former Lancers who have donned an Ohio State uniform include Michael Schneider (1977), DeVier Posey (2011), Joe Burger (2016) and Chrisman, with Seibert, Smith and Johnson to follow.
“I'm very close with Jaylen and Tay,” Payne said. “We knew each other before high school and played with and against each other since little league so our relationship is very strong, and I'm actually pretty close with C.J. (Hicks) too. (Johnson and Smith) committing to Ohio State definitely has brought more attention to the La Salle program as well as themselves. But like I said, it’s just showing that at La Salle there’s a great program where you're given the opportunity where you can accomplish your dreams to play at the next level.”