A Numbers Game

RALEIGH, NC -- Toney Baker wasn't promised it, but he felt pretty good that the No. 22 he proudly wore for four seasons at Jamestown (NC) Ragsdale High School would be waiting for him when he arrived at NC State.

"They said I was going to get the number, but they didn't promise me anything," Toney Baker told Pack Pride. "I was fortunate that I did get the number.

"To a lot of people it probably would be important. To me, not so much, but I'm happy that I did get the number I wanted and the number that I did some great things with in high school."

However, the personable freshman did admit he has often been confused with Wolfpack senior linebacker Oliver Hoyte, who also wears the No. 22 for the Wolfpack.

"Yea, actually," Baker said. "Around campus a lot of people were saying, 'Wow, you're going both ways.' I would just say, 'Man you're crazy.' But, we've got that fixed. Now everybody knows I'm on offense and Ollie is on defense."

One particular play that caught the attention of Baker's friends was the huge hit Hoyte laid on Eastern Kentucky's kickoff returner on the opening play of NC State's win over the Colonels. Believing it was actually Baker that forced the fumble on the kickoff, a few of his friends called to congratulate him on the tackle.

"[Laughing] Oh yea, I got so many calls about that one," Baker said. "The guys were just saying, 'My boy is sticking people.' But you know I cleared that up pretty quick."

One thing that hasn't been confusing to Baker is the structure of college and college football. After starring at Ragsdale High School, Baker is now just another freshman playing ACC football.

"It's not like high school, it's really different," he said. "It is time consuming, and everything is on a tight schedule. It is so intense, but I've adapted to it. I'm enjoying it all. You get used to it as the season progresses and that is where I'm at now."

Baker is coming off a two-touchdown performance against in-state rival North Carolina, a game NC State lost by seven points to fall to 1-2 overall on the season.

Now playing valuable reps as co-starter with Darrell Blackman, Baker acknowledges that his play is improving as he becomes more comfortable with his teammates.

"I thought I played pretty good," he said of the North Carolina game. "What I did is kind of irrelevant since we lost, but I gave it everything I had. I thought I played alright though.

Baker currently leads the ACC in touchdowns

"I think the season is going good. The guys around me are taking me in, and I haven't had any problems. The first-string offensive line has taken me in like a brother, and it's going good. I'm enjoying it."

Baker has seen his production and carries increase with each game. In the opener against Virginia Tech, Baker had just three carries and followed that up with six carries and a season-high 85 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Eastern Kentucky. Last week's game saw Baker rush for 58 yards and another two touchdowns on 15 carries against the Tar Heels.

On his weekly teleconference, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman mentioned that he would like to get Baker even more "touches" offensively, even if it is not just rushing the ball as he has proven to be a reliable receiver out of the backfield through three games. Whether it's rushing, receiving, or blocking, Baker is willing to do whatever it takes for NC State to win a football game.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," he said. "I'm here to help this team win. If I've got to pass block then I'm going to pass block. That is how I look at it.

"Unfortunately we can't run the ball when we get personal fouls and are back 15 yards. But, I'm just going to do what they tell me to do."

Penalties have been a reason why NC State has yet to utilize the depth at running back. Crucial penalties have often put the Wolfpack in passing situations, and turnovers have hampered them as well. Baker feels that if NC State can correct those mistakes, the talent is in place for the Wolfpack to have a big season.

"We want to get better and not beat ourselves," he said. "We feel that if we don't beat ourselves it will be real tough to beat us. It might not be possible. So we've just got to go out there and take care of our business."

Baker is already impressing across the Atlantic Coast Conference as he is near the top of a couple statistical categories. The 5-foot-10, 228-pound running back is tied for first in the conference in scoring touchdowns (5), tied for third in total points (30), and is third in yards per carry (6.2).

After hearing his current stats, Baker seemed especially surprised by the fact that he is leading the conference in touchdowns despite receiving limited carries.

"Wow, I didn't know that," he said. "It feels pretty good to hear it. Hopefully I will stay there. I'm going to keep my standards high, and hopefully I'll keep leading that category and we can pull out some wins."

His nose for the endzone and ability to light up the scoreboard has always been a strength. Not only did he set the North Carolina state career rushing mark with 10,231 yards, but Baker also finished with 161 career touchdowns.

"I feel like I do have a nose for the endzone when I get the ball down there in the redzone. That's how I've always been, through little league and up until this point. I'm just happy to have that."

This week Baker and NC State will look to pick up a critical conference win as they play on the road for the first time this season, traveling to Georgia Tech for a Thursday night contest. NC State hasn't won in Atlanta since 1988, but Baker and his offensive teammates are not concerned with the past, just the current Georgia Tech squad that has a strong defense focused on creating turnovers.

"They've got a good defense," Baker said. "They blitz probably 60-70% of the time so that's going to be a challenge for us to get in there and know the protections and really trust your assigments. I just have to learn the protections and get in there."

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