I think his prospects will be largely determined by the game between Miami (still #2) and Virginia Tech (now #3) on Nov. 1. VERY high-profile game, yada yada yada. But now that he’s got confidence, I think he’s going to have a big game. (And he’d better, or Miami’s gonna have trouble!)
The greatest shortcoming of Jarrett Payton’s career at Miami wasn’t waiting his turn behind one or two to-be first-round draft picks (heck, they all have to do that at Miami, heh heh), but the injuries he had during those years. Once you acquire that reputation of “fragility,” forget it.
Here’s the rundown on his years at Miami:
1999: As a true freshman, Payton gains 262 yards in 7 games, before taking leave to be with his now-terminal father.
2000: Sprains his ankle on the last pre-season scrimmage. After wearing a cast for 11 days, Payton is redshirted for the year.
2001: Fully recovered, Payton expects to be Clinton Portis’ backup. But while scuba diving, he cuts his foot on coral (requiring 22 stitches and subsequent surgery after infection set in) and is now repositioned on the depth chart behind Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore. In July, Payton is thrown from his convertible in a car crash, which leaves him with “compartment syndrome” and chronic back pain (which persists to this day). Coaches reassigned Payton to fullback, but that didn’t work out.
2002: After Portis enters the NFL early and Gore has a season-ending knee injury, Payton is returned to tailback, behind only the now-legendary Willis McGahee on the depth chart. Has admittedly less-than-ideal outings in big games, including the Fiesta Bowl (in which McGahee suffered a serious knee injury). Graduates in December.
2003: Make-or-break year. Takes a few grad-level courses on the side, but is basically devoting himself to football.