If you ask elite Houston area position trainer Rischad Whitfield, he’ll tell you, “Footwork is the foundation, that’s what a lot of people don’t understand.”
Upon a foundation of footwork training, Whitfield has built Blitz Football into a powerhouse for progress-seeking pros and prospects alike.
Known as the ‘Footwork King,’ Whitfield trains some of the nation’s premier athletes at their respective levels, whether it be recruits, current college athletes, or those playing for a hefty NFL paycheck. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, Titans wide receiver Andre Johnson, Texans reciever DeAndre Hopkins, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, and Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr are among a lengthy list of elite athletes that have, or continue to train under Whitfield’s guidance.
“They can train anywhere in the world, but they come down here to train,” Whitfield told Burnt Orange Nation of the professional players he trains.
While Whitfield prefers to reserve the term elite for those in the NFL, the Footwork King provided no shortage of praise for Texas Longhorns early enrollee running back Toneil Carter.
“Without a doubt,” Whitfield emphatically stated of whether or not Carter has elite potential. “Melvin Gordon will tell you that. He has elite potential. He has a chance to go down and end up being one of the top running backs at The University of Texas.”
“He has a dog mentality and you add that on top of great technique, great fundamentals, great foot speed and his footwork and vision are A1, you’ve got a dynamic back,” Whitfield said of Carter. “That’s a huge, huge addition to The University of Texas. Georgia dropped the ball on that.”
Fortunately for Texas, one program’s flip is another’s fresh legs.
Less than a month after D’Onta Foreman, upon whom Texas heavily relied to the tune of a staggering 323 carries and 2,028 yards in 2016, declared for the NFL Draft, the unexpected return of Georgia’s dynamic backfield — Nick Chubb and Sony Michel — left Carter with burnt orange on the brain and plenty of tread left on the tires.
Ranked as the nation’s No. 6 running back, per 247Sports Composite, Carter is quite unlike the company recruiting services classify him in. If numbers never lie, Carter’s are, at the least, leaving much unsaid.
Dissimilar to the other coveted rushers in his class, Carter’s statistics are misleading on the surface. Three varsity seasons produced just 3,702 yards and 54 scores, while backs such as Florida State’s Cam Akers, Alabama’s Najee Harris, and Tennessee commit Ty Chandler rushed for 5,103, 7,948 and 6,158 yards in high school, respectively.
But Carter didn’t carry the ball 700 times like Akers, 838 times like Harris, or 814 times as Chandler did. Rather, Carter rushed just 485 times for Langham Creek — 215 fewer carries than Akers, 353 fewer than Harris, and 329 fewer than Chandler.
Of the five running backs ranked higher than Carter, only Georgia pledge D’Andre Swift had fewer career carries (414), and his 164 carries in 2016 still surpasses Carter’s senior effort of 154. More notably, Carter’s career yards per carry average of 7.6 ranks second behind only Harris, who chewed up an average of 9.5 yards per carry.
So not only could Carter have more carries left in his body than many other top running backs coming out of high school, Whitfield says Carter is “light years ahead compared to some of the other running backs” he’s trained.
Don’t let the absence of bulk carries throughout high school fool you, though — Carter is a workhorse with what Whitfield calls an “unreal” work ethic.
“He really wants to be great. He says that all the time,” Whitfield said of Carter’s work ethic and drive. “I have to tell Toneil, ‘We have to take today off, bro. Let your body rest up.’”
Now having trained Carter since his sophomore season, it’s arguable that nobody has foreseen the New Orleans native’s talent and potential to become a special ball carrier as early and apparently as Whitfield.
“Oh yeah,” Whitfield said when asked if there was ever a moment when he realized how special Carter can be. “When we first started training, just his explosiveness. He’s got big legs and he can just explode.”
From the time Carter was a sophomore — exploding onto the recruiting scene after a 1,382-yard, 19-touchdown season and adding offers from the likes of Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Georgia and Texas — Whitfield has seen Carter’s “crazy” progression, despite what might seem like statistical regressions during his junior and senior campaigns.
As Whitfield put it, “[Carter] went from not planting hard, jump-cutting slow, feet too wide, and not reacting fast enough. Now, his foot speed and reaction time is so quick, he can stop on a dime at full speed, plays within his body and doesn’t get too wide.”
“It’s crazy, man, his progression.”
A portion of Carter’s progression and maturation can be credited to Whitfield’s training style and the emphasis he placed on ensuring the Under Armour All-American entered college as much more than your run-of-the-mill running back.
“My training style is a lot different,” Whitfield stated. “Most trainers just focus on weight training and the basic fundamentals of training. I do the basic fundamentals and then I add more and more and more work to that. All the stuff I do helps players give themselves an edge. A lot of my stuff is thinking outside of the box.”
As Whitfield’s training style pertains to Carter, the Footwork King said he’s worked with the explosive running back on his ability to read and react, playing as a receiver in the slot, and letting his eyes be his guide as he transitions to Power 5 football, where virtually everyone is a high-level athlete.
“When you’re playing running back, you don’t have time to think,” Whitfield said of what he tells Carter during training sessions. “I tell Toneil all the time — ‘Your eyes have got to move your feet.’”
After spending the past three years training with Whitfield — sometimes three times a week and at least once a week during the school year — there’s reason to believe Carter is well prepared for the next level.
“He’s ready to compete against those guys [at Texas],” Whitfield said of how early Carter can crack the rotation in Austin. “He’s fixing to give those guys a run for their money.”
The eye test echoes Whitfield’s sentiments — Carter has the makings of a true freshman impact player at a position of need in a system with which he’s already quite familiar.
“Herman’s offense is going to be a breeze for him,” Whitfield said of how Carter can fit into Herman’s power spread offenses. “He’ll fit right in. That’s what he’s been running.”
As Whitfield noted, Carter’s running style is reminiscent of former Longhorns star and current NFL standout Jamaal Charles and his cut-and-come-catch-me capability.
“He can go, man,” Whitfield said. “He’s super explosive.”
The backbone of Carter’s rushing prowess is his true track speed — he runs a 10.6 in the 100 meters, which overshadows his 4.26 shuttle and 35.6-inch vertical — and with very little wasted movement, Carter can cut on a dime without losing a gear.
He’s usually a few gears faster than the opposition, in any case.
More times than not, it seems Carter effortlessly glides across the field and often ends up with open grass ahead of him due to some shiftiness and solid vision and awareness. Carter isn’t simply finesse, either. He hits the hole with power and burst and is strong enough to run through arm tackles, though that’s not his bread and butter.
“After watching Carter over multiple seasons, it becomes a little bit too easy to overlook just how athletic Carter plays in pads because he’s so smooth with his acceleration and subtle moves through the hole,” BON executive editor Wescott Eberts previously noted.
Carter isn’t Foreman, nor is he Chris Warren III — he’s a much different kind of back and one that perfectly complements the current crop of rushers in Austin.
So what exactly is Texas getting in one of the nation’s premier prospects and the second-ranked Longhorn in the 2017 class?
After spending the last three years training Carter, Whitfield seems to have a pretty good idea.
“The University of Texas is getting one of the hardest working running backs that that school has ever seen,” he said. “He doesn’t get tired; he’s all about that work. They’re about to get a kid who wants to be great, wants to help Texas get to the national championship and a Big 12 Championship. You’ve got a kid who wants to be productive; every single time he gets the ball he wants to score. He’s a leader; he wants to be great.”
A fast, fresh-faced, freakish athlete that wants to be great aligns with the lengthy list of historically prominent rushers to play at Texas; one that includes Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, Charles, and Foreman. Whitfield is confident that Carter’s name will one day be mentioned in the same breath.
“To be honest with you, he can be better than a lot of them. He’s far more developed than what they were at his age.”