JaVonta Payton announced he was transferring from Mississippi State to Tennessee in May.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound wide receiver appeared in 22 games for the Bulldogs from 2019-20, totaling 28 receptions, 372 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown, one rushing attempt and 11 rushing yards.
Payton had 10 kick returns for 203 yards.
He transferred to Mississippi State from Northwest Mississippi C.C., where he played during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Payton played at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tennessee.
Former Hillsboro head coach Maurice Fitzgerald coached Payton in middle school and his dad at Pearl-Cohn.
“It is all about timing and fit,” Fitzgerald told Vols Wire of Payton playing in Josh Heupel’s offense. “He has speed, athletic skill, can get open, he can run patterns. Sometimes it’s just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I did not officially coach him in high school, but I coached him in middle school. I coached his dad, McKinely Young, in four years at Pearl-Cohn.”
Payton played in first-year Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense in 2020. Leach’s offense places an emphasis on mesh concepts.
Over the years, Heupel’s offense has transitioned to more veer and shoot principles.
Payton’s skillset can allow him to be a factor throughout various positions in Heupel’s offense.
“He is an athletic guy,” Fitzgerald said of Payton. “He can adjust a lot in the air, turn and twist his body and everything. Just being in a system, where I think that he can be a guy that can come in and identify what the coach wants, a lot of times that is not the case.
“Sometimes the kid knows what he really is expected, or it may not even fit his skillset, so it is about being a fit.”