Cornerback transfer D'Andre Payne glad to be back close to home at Maryland

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland cornerback D'Andre Payne is back home.

A year after leaving H.D. Woodson High in Washington for Tennessee as a four-star prospect, Payne is starting his college career over as a Terp. The 5-9, 180-pound sophomore transferred in January.


At least for now, Payne is a nonscholarship walk-on. That is likely to change, considering how well Payne has looked so far in spring practice, where he unofficially is among the leaders on defense in interceptions and pass breakups.

"He's a quiet kid, you never notice when he's around but on the field he's been a monster," sophomore quarterback Shane Cockerille said after Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage. "He makes really good reads. He's definitely coming around. He's making his presence known."


Payne was recruited by Maryland coming out of high school and the Terps were one of his "top schools." Payne admitted that he was attracted to the hoopla surrounding the Volunteers and the idea of playing in front of more than 100,000 at Neyland Stadium.

"I felt I had a better opportunity to get on the field," Payne said. "It was SEC football and all that… I came here and I'm just trying to prove it, to prove I can be on the field."

As things turned out, Payne barely got on the field on defense, playing in just four games and recording four tackles last season. Even before the Vols finished a 7-6 season with 45-28 victory over Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl, Payne decided to transfer.

"I don't necessarily regret it [not coming to Maryland initially]," he said. "Everything happens for a reason. I'm just pretty much glad that I decided to come here and be a part of this program."

Payne seems to have the right attitude about his role this season, which he'll have sit out as a transfer.

"Every time I step on the field, it's a blessing," he said. "I take every moment in that I'm on the field helping out the guys who are able to play this year and doing what the coaches ask me to do."

The easiest thing so far for Payne was getting Tennessee's legendary fight song, "Rocky Top" out of his head.

""It's been out of my head," he said. "I've got to learn the Terps song now."


Offense struggles

During a nearly two-hour scrimmage, Maryland's offense scored just once, a short run by tailback Albert Reid toward the end of the session.

There were a lot more fumbles, dropped passes and penalties calls than breakout plays for an offense run equally by backup quarterbacks Perry Hills and Cockerille while expected starter Caleb Rowe recovers from his second ACL surgery.

"Today from an offensive standpoint, it was not very pleasant," said Cockerille, who had a late pass tipped an intercepted by cornerback Will Likely in the red zone. "Everybody came out flat."

Asked why the offense struggled, Cockerille said, "I guess it was a little bit of the [cold, blustery] weather and the weekend and people looking forward to a day off."

Losing their heads


When Hills tried to block safety A.J. Hendy despite the junior quarterback being off limits to being tackled himself, Hendy took exception. He went after Hills, but offensive tackle Michael Dunn came to Hills' defense. Dunn and Hendy then went at it before the two were pulled apart.

"You always want to go out there and be the best for your team, just try to do the right things," Hills said. "That situation it kind of was instinct, trying to help the running back get the edge. I was in the way of somebody and had the yellow jersey. Everybody out there is competing, they wouldn't be here if they weren't."t

Said Maryland coach Randy Edsall, "What they've got to understand is that if that's a game situation, both of those guys would have got thrown out. That's something that we can't have happen. It's good to see the fire and energy and all that stuff but we got to understand the situation and play accordingly."