Ask Toneil Carter about UGA. Reporters do that and then wait for an answer.
He starts the topic off with a mental note. The nation’s No. 6 running back for 2017 flashes a huge smile. The speedy Texan will take that question and run with it.
Carter will note the campus and the fact he just visited UGA. The four-star back knows the Bulldogs run the ball a lot, too.
“I already loved Georgia,” Carter told SEC Country’s Chris Kirschner this weekend at Nike’s “The Opening” regional camp in Houston. “When I went out there, it just made everything so much better. I loved the campus. I had talked to (UGA running backs coach Dell) McGee on the phone, but when I got there, he was a totally different person. He made me feel so welcomed. I loved that.”
The nation’s No. 90 overall prospect told Kirschner UGA was in his top four with LSU, Michigan State and Texas A&M. He did not indicate a leader, but that hierarchy shows he continues to have UGA on his mind.
The 5-foot-11 junior had UGA as one of his top schools earlier this year. Former UGA running backs coach Thomas Brown was on him hard. When Carter was at the Under Armour Future 50 event back in December, he told reporters UGA was his top school. Well, until he learned that Brown was on his way to Miami.
The new staff has regained that interest. How does a young man from suburban Houston have UGA in his Top 5? Thank ESPN and the SEC Network. That’s how highlights of Herschel Walker blowing by SEC defenders still stop young players in their tracks 36 years after the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner’s first carry at UGA.
Carter knows all about Walker, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel just to name a few. When he thinks about that, he says what he feels. The Langham Creek High School star doesn’t think he would just belong in a long line of standouts at a program which has earned the “Tailback U” nickname.
“I’m going to be better,” Carter said. “I’m going to be better than all of them.”
Does that include Herschel ‘The Goal Line Stalker” Walker himself?
“Ehhh,” Carter said while laughing. “I’ll give you that one. Herschel was one of the greatest to ever do it.”
But better than Gurley?
“Yes,” he said. “Most definitely. I say that because of the work ethic I have. I’m not looking to be the same as Gurley. I want to be better than what he was at Georgia. I’m going to push myself to be better.”
It might sound like heresy to UGA fans, but you can bet it sounds like exactly the type of player McGee wants to sign. He wants players with the internal juice to set that goal.
Carter already knows UGA will get one of his official visits. He plans to commit on Oct. 3. That’s his birthday. He will also study kinesiology. That’s a good degree fit at UGA. He told SEC Country the biggest reason he would choose a school would be so his family could see him play.
That’s a “hit the pause button” moment. LSU? Texas A&M? They have UGA there. Houston to Athens is just a mere 865 miles away.
Do those miles affect UGA’s chances?
“Not necessarily,” Carter said. “I don’t really want to be too close to home, but be too far away from home. I already talked to my brother about Georgia. We decided that it’s not too far away from home. We would make a way for them to be able to watch me if I went there.”
The fact that he’s measured the distance and vetted it out with his brother is telling.
The 205-pounder hasn’t been given an indication of where he stands on UGA’s big board, but he also hasn’t bothered to ask. A back who sets his sights on Gurley and Walker territory won’t lose much sleep on who else signs to play that position.
“I didn’t really even ask about that because I don’t really care about it,” Carter said. “If I choose a school, it’s all about how hard I work anyway in order to get a chance to play.”
UGA clearly has a big shot at Carter, but it will be a tight race. The four-star back has lived in both Louisiana and Texas in his life. He was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and bounded from New Orleans to Mississippi before settling in Houston.
LSU is in on him hard. He told SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman that he already trusts running backs coach Jabbar Juluke.
Carter plans to attend the Aggies’ spring game this weekend and be at LSU on April 16. That means he will miss G-Day at UGA on the same date. He still has a lot of family in New Orleans and there’s a decent little running back tradition in Baton Rouge, too.
Toneil Carter pic.twitter.com/k8lsLVLEpm
— Brian Perroni (@Perroni247) April 3, 2016
G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.