Jordan Payton announced earlier this month he will return to UCLA for his senior season, and as the Bruins’ leading receiver, his presence is an obvious boon to the 2015 offense.
Payton made his declaration to reporters on Dec. 20, as Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News writes:
"I’m coming back. There were reports saying that I was leaving or something, but I’m coming back," he said. "Didn’t really even think about leaving, to be honest with you."
But what Payton brings to UCLA as a fourth-year player isn’t quantified simply in the 63 receptions for 896 yards and seven touchdowns he accrued in 2014.
Nor is Payton’s value limited to being a steady possession receiver, a role he excelled in.
For insight into everything Payton brings back to UCLA next season as one of its veteran leaders, look no further than the Bruins’ Nov. 22 win over rival USC—one of Payton’s lowest statistical outputs of the season.
His three receptions were the fewest since his four-catch outing against Texas in Week 3, yet Payton’s impact on the game was undeniable.
“We [threw] a lot of passes to the sideline, which we call comets to the sideline,” Payton said. “And we had great, great blocking on the edges. I know my production was lower, but I felt like I played an extremely great game as far as perimeter blocking.”
Indeed, catch a replay of the Bruins’ rivalry win, and you will see UCLA repeatedly attack the right side of the field, either on passes to Devin Fuller or via the rush with Pac-12-leading ball-carrier Paul Perkins.
And out in front of his teammates making crucial blocks is Payton.
“The system that we’re in is all built around trust,” Payton said. “Whatever you can do to have the team win.”
|Jordan Payton Career Stats|
Instilling trust within a team starts with leadership, and Payton provides just that. Next season, he will provide that cornerstone.
UCLA returns a bevy of starters in 2015 but loses three-year starting quarterback Brett Hundley.
The new starting quarterback’s transition is smoothed considerably, thanks to UCLA returning one of the nation’s deepest receiving corps.
Between Payton, Fuller, Thomas Duarte, Devin Lucien, Eldridge Massington, Mossi Johnson and Kenneth Walker, UCLA returns 222 receptions, 2,756 yards and 19 touchdowns of production in the receiving corps.
Add Perkins, UCLA’s first conference-leading rusher since 1995, and the Bruins offense will have no shortage of options next season.
Thus, even when Payton isn't contributing, he'll be contributing. As he tweeted earlier this week, for him, there's just one stat that matters.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com.