HOUSTON — Where Toneil Carter calls home is quite a loaded question.
Multiple cities could serve as the correct answer, but what isn’t up for debate is that home will ultimately play a major role in where the nation’s No. 6 running back commits.
Carter has constructed an SEC-heavy top four comprised of LSU, UGA, Texas A&M and Michigan State.
Two of those SEC West powers include ties to home — both homes — depending on what period of Carter’s life you’re referring to.
“Everybody is even right now,” Carter told SEC Country during Nike’s “The Opening” regional camp in Houston.
“Louisiana is home … kind of, sort of, in a way. … But I’ve been in Texas so long that this is kind of home, too. To say I’d go back home, well, that’s sort of awkward, too.”
At age 7, Carter and his family resided in the Uptown part of New Orleans. That is until Hurricane Katrina struck, which forced most of the family to relocate to Mississippi.
At the time, New Orleans was not in its best state, so the young version of Carter maintained an open mind as he left home.
“Well, since I was a young kid, it didn’t bother me as much as it did the rest of my family,” Carter remembered. “I was still young, so I looked at it as a new opportunity. There was a lot of violence going on, so I just took my chance and ran with it.”
While most of the Carters were heading east to Mississippi, one exception was Carter’s older brother.
Byron Carter landed somewhere else in Texas.
Byron was Toneil’s childhood idol, so his absence from Toneil’s life for that time frame forced Toneil to grow up, and do so quickly.
After two years in Mississippi, the Carters hit the road for the Lone Star State, reuniting the family for the first time since they were forced to abruptly leave New Orleans because of the storm.
“When we went to Mississippi, my older brother got separated from us, and that played a big part in my life because I looked up to my brother and he was displaced somewhere in Texas for two years,” Carter said.
“Finally, we found a place in Houston. We drove. It was a nice little ride. I can still remember it.”
Carter has spent most of the past decade in Houston, leading up to his explosion in the recruiting ranks as a four-star prospect and one of the premier running back talents in the country.
Two of the teams trying to secure a commitment from the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder are LSU and Texas A&M.
Carter returned to The Boot in mid-March, where he toured the LSU campus in the midst of spring practice. He also spent time speaking with linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto and running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, who grabbed the back’s attention in a huge way.
“I loved the atmosphere and the campus, and the coaches out there were unbelievable,” Carter said. “They said they were going to stay recruiting me and come harder than anyone else out there.”
The LSU coaches have delivered on that promise thus far.
Carter hears from members of the staff almost every other day, including Juluke, who refuses to speak anything but the truth to the New Orleans native, which has helped LSU remain in contention for the prized running back.
“Coach Jabbar has been telling me that everyone is going to recruit, so I can’t come in and just look at myself as the starter,” Carter said. “He’s not going to feed me bull. He’s telling me things straight up, and that’s what I like. I respect that a lot.”
LSU remains in the same position as UGA, Michigan State and Texas A&M, but Carter admitted that his official visits will help one school separate from the pack.
Not surprisingly, Carter has plans to attend both the Aggies’ spring game this weekend and the Tigers’ spring game on April 16, but he remains unsure if he will head anywhere else. Family ties to both Texas and Louisiana will make his decision all the more difficult.
“Most of my family besides my siblings are still in New Orleans,” Carter said. “They’re pushing me toward LSU because they all want to come out and watch me play. Family is going to play a big part in this. To me, the support system is big. I’m big on support, so having my family there — that would be a nice little feeling.”