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Maturation of Texas RB Toneil Carter could bolster run game

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The freshman is the most “explosive, twitched up” back on the roster.

NCAA Football: Texas at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Streaking down the field, Toneil Carter easily drew past converted quarterback Joel Lanning, now a linebacker for the Iowa St. Cyclones, until the floated pass from Shane Buechele fell gently into his hands in the end zone.

In one play, the Texas Longhorns freshman running back showed the potential that earned him the consensus No. 10 national ranking among ball carriers in the 2017 recruiting class.

And it also demonstrated why the athletic Carter could become a key solution to the current issues facing the Texas run game, which averaged a mere 2.7 yards per carry in Ames after notching 1.9 yards per attempt against USC.

“It’s obvious that Toneil is probably our most twitched-up, explosive, top-end speed tailback,” head coach Tom Herman said after the Thursday win over the Cyclones.

So why does the Houston Langham Creek product only have 10 carries and three catches through four games? It all comes down to one thing — trust.

“It was never a talent issue with Toneil; it was a trust issue as a true freshman,” Herman said. “Is he going to go left when he’s supposed to go right? Is he going to block the right guy when he’s asked to block people? Is he going to protect the football, because quite honestly, he’d been a bit inconsistent with that in practice.”

The coaches clearly trust sophomore Kyle Porter, the co-starter with junior Chris Warren III at the position, but Porter has a bad habit of stopping his momentum in the hole, as Coach noted on Tuesday, and seemingly hasn’t broken a tackle all season.

“We're not making very many people miss,” Hermans said on Monday. “If it's blocked for four, we're going to make four, if it's blocked for six, we're going to make six. Where the great backs if it's blocked for four they give you eight and if it's blocked to one, they give you three or four.”

In Carter, however, the ‘Horns may have someone who is elusive enough to make defenders miss. His speed also provides a different element to the running game, allowing the coaches to run plays like the inverted veer read option called several times against Iowa State that can get Carter on the perimeter.

And, as the freshman demonstrated on his touchdown catch against Iowa State, he’s also versatile enough to run routes from the backfield or split out as a wide receiver. Among all the running backs, he’s acknowledged by the coaching staff as the best pass catcher.

As a result, Carter is quickly becoming one of the most important players on the team offensively because he can provide unique solutions in the running game and passing game.

As long as he can continue earning the trust of coaches by focusing on ball security and learning the offense in practice and the film room.

“You'll see Toneil play more, he played more against Iowa State and he'll play more this week, too,” Herman said.

It’s not time to panic about the running back situation, according to the Longhorns head coach, but it may be time to get Carter the ball more often.