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Preps

Efficiency, not size, defines Alonso’s Witter


Published:   |   Updated: August 30, 2013 at 06:27 AM

TAMPA — Alonso High running back Ish Witter is a tough guy. Quiet. He runs full steam ahead, knocks a guy over, gets hit by three guys and is thrown to the ground.

He gets up, without saying a word, and does it again. And again. And again.

More than 5 yards a carry, on average.

“He’s a quiet assassin,” Alonso coach Brian Emanuel said.

He’s also short: 5-foot-8. And when asked about this — in the context of college recruiting — Witter has an answer.

“I think shorter backs make for better backs,” Witter said. “Shorter backs are often the best backs.”

Good point. Barry Sanders. Walter Payton. Emmitt Smith. Doug Martin, for that matter. None of them were much taller, if at all, than Witter.

“I can hide behind linemen and find the opening,” Witter said. “I see things that others don’t see.”

The universities of Syracuse, Missouri, Indiana and Rutgers agree and have offered Witter scholarships. Some other big-name schools have shown interest, but they seem to have backed off because of his size.

“Too bad for them,” Emanuel said. “Whoever gets Ish Witter is going to be very happy. You wait and see.”

Emanuel is happy to tick off the list of Witter’s attributes: Outstanding student, superior work ethic, good person.

“If Ish showed up to take your daughter out on a date, you would be thrilled because you know he would act like the perfect gentleman,” said Emanuel, who has two daughters. “He would take care of your daughter.”

Of course he would. With Witter, the right way is the only way.

Which is why Witter never, ever, misses a meeting, practice or team workout.

Witter is — despite being 5-8, 190 pounds — the second-strongest player on Alonso’s team. The strongest is 6-3, 293-pound offensive lineman Gary Brown, who bench presses 345 pounds and squats 555 pounds.

Witter is right behind with a 335-pound bench and a 505-pound squat.

“It inspires you to see (Witter) lifting that much weight,” Brown said. “Seeing him do what he does makes you work harder.”

When tonight’s season opener begins against Jefferson, Brown, who also has an offer from Indiana, said he will feel a great deal of confidence knowing Witter is behind him.

“All I have to do is create a little opening and Ish is going to find it and make the most of it,” Brown said. “I feel that if the offensive line does its job that there is nobody who can stop Ish.

“If he can get into the secondary, then he’s gone (with 4.53-second 40-yard speed).”

A big priority for Witter this season, after rushing last season 165 times for 902 yards, is staying healthy. In Week 7 last year, Witter sprained an ankle and struggled through the final three games with limited carries.

As a result, Alonso also struggled, losing its final two games.

“We are deeper (at running back) this year, but having Ish back there is key,” Emanuel said. “He means a lot to us.

“In many ways.”

tpurks@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @TBO_PrepSports

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