Tracking the Moves of Touchdown Toney

He has the look of an outside linebacker, the strength of a premier D-lineman, the speed of a sprinter and more rushing touchdowns in his three-year high school career than Travis Henry, James Stewart, Jamal Lewis and Charlie Garner had in their combined college careers.

It's little wonder Toney "Touchdown" Baker is the No. 1 prospect in North Carolina, the No. 3 player in the Atlantic region Hot 100 and the nation's No. 9 rated running back. Or that he is expected to eclipse the state career rushing record of 9,038 by midseason.

Yes, Baker is a different type of animal, one with blazing speed, amazing brawn and rare vision that allows him to slow down the game while he's cruising through traffic. dodging defenders and breaking tackles.

"Coaches say that I can do pretty much anything out on the field." Baker told Steve Ryan of "But, what I hear more about is my vision. I can see the field really well and I've got the speed to avoid it or if I have to go through them, that's what I will do.

"I have great speed, vision and strength, I see the whole field good and I can juke and jive as well as run right over you. I have great instincts. I want to be a better pass blocker and be an all-around back and help my team in every way."

At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds with a bodacious 420-pound bench press and sizzling 4.45 speed, Baker can bring a load in a hurry and he has the endurance to bring it all night long.

A starter since his freshman season at Lucy Ragsdale High School, Baker has piled up 7,044 yards and 92 rushing touchdowns. He was named North Carolina's freshman of the Year after gaining 1,326 yards. He made the all-state team as a sophomore while rushing for 2,307 yards and 32 TDs. He repeated that feat as a junior while rushing for over 3,411 yards.

A big senior season would put Baker within sight of the national career high school rushing record although he seems more concerned with team goals. The Jamestown, N.C. native won the state's Class 3A championship in the shot put last spring and finished third in the shot put.

Baker has pared over 50 Division I scholarship offers down to five schools which he plans to visit. He is not expected to make his decision on a school until Ragsdale's season is concluded.

"Right now I'm kind of liking N.C. State, [North] Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Tennessee," Baker stated. "Really I'm looking for the opportunity to play and I have been to N.C. State, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech and I felt comfortable when I was there. I haven't really been to Tennessee like I want to though so I have to get down there."

Baker did make a trip to Knoxville for the 2002 UT-UF contest and came away impressed by what he experienced even though the Vols were defeated in a driving rain storm.

"Tennessee is a big-time program," he said. "I saw the Tennessee- Florida game two years ago in Knoxville and it was the best game ever.

"I went to a game there my sophomore year and it was just the best thing I've seen. It was pouring raining but there was still over 100,000 fans in the stadium. It was crazy."

N.C. State and Virginia may have an early lead for Baker who steadfastly maintains he's open and his intent to take all five of his visits. Whichever school is lucky enough to land the elusive Baker will have a ground weapon of the highest order. chooses he'll make an impact according to his high school head coach Tommy Norwood.

"Any school that plays big college football had better be after him," Ragsdale High head coach Tommy Norwood said. "If he's not the best rising running back in North Carolina, I don't want to know who is and I don't want to play against him."

It sounds like Baker plans to play the recruiting game like he runs the football — instinctively. Try to pin him down on a favorite and he'll give you a spin move and dance away. Compare these comments he made to Insider operatives as examples.

When asked about his open field moves by Big Red Report's Steve Ryan, he said: "To be honest, I don't even think about whether I am going to go around them, through them or whatever." Toney said. "It's all instinct for me. I just run the ball and sometimes I have to look at the film to figure out what I did."

When asked about the schools he was considering and his favorites by The Insiders Don Callahan, Baker responded: "I'm really trying to check out those five schools, but the door is open. I'm going to explore all my options.

"All five schools are sticking out, but State's looking good... real good. Virginia's been looking real good lately. I can't say I have just one favorite though because I can end up at any of those five schools."

What factors will play into Baker's decision, and when might that decision be made?

"Really it's going to be where I feel comfortable. I'll have to be there for four years, so that's important. Also, what my role is going to be.

"I can't really say for sure. I'd like to take all five visits, but I'd also like to choose after my football season. I think when I know where I want to go then that's when I'll commit."

And with the greatest of ease, Touchdown Toney takes an end run to the end zone.

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