Two Top Two-Sport Stars Go Head-to-Head Saturday
Stanford’s Toby Gerhart and Notre Dame’s Golden Tate have three things in common: 1. They both play college football 2. They are both college baseball outfielders and 3. Irish football coach Charlie Weis talked about both of them at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. (They might actually have more than that in common, but that’s the nutshell version.)
Gerhart is a 6’1, 235 lb. senior who has rolled through Pac 10 defenders like a bowling ball through Weebles this season to the tune of 1,531 yards (2nd in the nation) and 23 nation-leading touchdowns. He is one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation’s top college running back each season.
At 5’11 and 195 pounds Tate is the lightning to Gerhart’s thunder. His blazing speed has helped him reel-in 83 receptions for 1,295 yards (both ND school records) with 12 touchdown grabs. Tate has also rushed for two touchdowns, and returned a punt 87 yards for another score. His efforts rank him fourth nationally in receiving yards and have made him one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is bestowed annually upon the nation’s top college receiver.
Gerhart has now exhausted his football eligibility, but he has one season of eligibility left if he decides to play for Mark Marquess and the Cardinal baseball team next spring. (That could be tough with the NFL draft in April.) Gerhart has made 105 baseball starts in his first three seasons while helping Stanford to the 2008 College World Series.
Tate has a few more options remaining. As a junior on the Irish football team he could still return for a last bit of
gridiron refining next fall. He also has two years of baseball eligibility left, so he could potentially patrol the outfield for Dave Schrage for two more seasons. He could also go the route of another former Irish two-sport star, Jeff Samardzija, who is now a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. Samardzija played minor league baseball after his junior baeball season, and then returned for his senior football campaign to break more records & catch more passes thrown by current Cleveland Brown QB Brady Quinn. (Tate has already broken Shark’s single-season yardage record and needs just 88 yards to break his career mark of 2,593.)
But here’s the best part: We get to see both Gerhart and Tate in action on the same field while we’re gorging on leftovers this weekend when Notre Dame visits Stanford this Saturday night in the regular season finale for both teams.
*CLICK HERE to read the Collegebasell360.com Two Sport Reports which have featured Gerhart, Tate & other two sport athletes throughout the fall.)
Following is what Weis had to say about each of them on Tuesday:
On Toby Gerhart
Q. Their running game, what do you need to do to slow that down? What do they do that makes them so successful?
WEIS: Well, I mean, I could talk about their offensive line, I could talk about their tight ends and I could talk about their scheme and their mentality, but
That No. 7 (Gerhart), the guy with the ball in his hands, you know, he’s special. He’s a hard north‑south runner. Not that he can’t bounce it outside, but you have to gang‑tackle him, and we’ve had a few problems with tackling now, and I think that if you don’t gang‑tackle him, he gets a lot of hidden yardage because you don’t get 139 yards a game by just being running in open field all the time and just by scheme. I mean, this kid is a heck of a runner. I have a lot of respect for him.
Q. Where does Gerhart rank in terms of the skill position players you guys have faced this year?
WEIS: Well, I think that, for example, if you’re going into the draft, let’s take him ‑‑ with this guy, you’re going into the draft, he’ll be one of the first guys taken, because one of those guys who wants a guy, a dependable, every‑down runner they can just hand the ball to 25, 30 times a game, there aren’t very many of them that are that type of size that are that type of durable that have proven track records. He obviously has a proven track record. So he’s right up there with the best of them.
There’s guys that we play that are faster than him, but I don’t know if there’s any more grounded than this guy.
Q. I know you get this kind of question a lot. Who does he remind you of? Is there anyone?
WEIS: Size alone puts him in a different category than a lot of running backs. Yeah, there’s a bunch of guys that come to mind, but I’d have to think about that a little bit more. I really haven’t thought about the parallel.
On Golden Tate
Q. I don’t know how familiar you are with the strength and conditioning numbers of your players, and I don’t know if Golden Tate is pound for pound one of your strongest players. Is it that? Is that what makes it so difficult to bring him down, or is it just desire and will that keeps him on his feet sometimes?
WEIS: Well, he is a rocked‑up unit to start out with. I agree. I think it’s a combination of both those elements. I think you hit it twice. I don’t think it has to be one or the other. I think it’s a combination of both those things. He’s a strong, physical rocked‑up unit, and he has a great center of gravity when he’s playing. He’s well‑grounded when he gets hit a lot of times. How many times have we seen people bounce off of him? But I think that and a strong will, it’s a good combination.
Q. And I know that he and you both said he’s learned the game a lot more, and that’s helped him become a better player. But what pushed him down that road do you think? What got him ‑‑ because this guy has improved so much.
WEIS: Yeah, well, first of all, he’s a great competitor any time he’s on the field. That’s why in baseball season he doesn’t want to talk about football, and in football season he doesn’t want to talk about baseball, because he’s such a fierce competitor. I think he’s got ‑‑ he’s probably improved more than any player on the team, and there’s still some things that he can even get better. There’s some things that when he goes over a few more of the more refined coaching points, he can even get better than where he is. Maybe not necessarily numbers‑wise, okay, but he can get better from where he is now.
Q. Whether it’s this year or next year, and I know that he’s going to make that decision at the appropriate time, but he’s going to play in the NFL, and there are some people that you talk to, it just seems like the only thing that they’re worried about is the height. Can you address that, what you think ‑‑
WEIS: They won’t be worrying about the height. You know what’s going to happen is they’re going to watch the tape, because anyone who watching the tape, they’re not worrying about the height. I think that more importantly, they want to let him go to the combine and see what number he runs, because when all of a sudden it’s a 4‑4 flat or something along those lines, that height will be thrown right out the window, because unlike a lot of other receivers, the volume ‑‑ just think about the number of plays that you’ve seen him make this year.
The bottom line is he has evidence. You have visual evidence when you watch him. You don’t want to bet on the come with him. He’s already got a body of evidence on tape. You just go pick a game out, and you’re going to have at least nine or ten plays where you say, this kid is something special.
Q. Is there anybody at the next level that you see a parallel to?
WEIS: Unlike Gerhart, who I don’t have, so I’d have to think about it, he reminds me of Steve Smith’s clone. I know Steve Smith well. I’m a big fan of Steve Smith. A little trash‑talker just like Golden. But their personalities are alike, they’re fiery guys, they make big plays. They’re tough. They don’t back down from anyone. I would imagine ‑‑ I don’t know exactly Steve’s size, but I would imagine it’s probably pretty close, and he’s done pretty well, last time I checked. He reminds me a lot of Steve.
Q. Following up on that, you say size is not a limitation for him. Route‑running, which two years ago was really non‑existent for him, is that the area where he has improved the most?
WEIS: He has improved the most, and he has work to do yet. The two things, because he’s capable of running even better routes, which he has improved exponentially on that subject right there. But he’s capable of running even better routes, and with his strength and quickness getting off the line of scrimmage versus a jam, when he starts using even more proper technique and better technique at that right there when people come up and they want to try to take him away, it’s going to be scary when he really gets that down the way ‑‑ with the same improvement that he has in route running.
Q. Assuming that he came out right now, how would the NFL judge him? Would they say, okay, he’s weak on the route running but he’s so physically skilled that we’ll take him early and develop him?
WEIS: I think it would really come down to two things, and he already has one of them in the bank already. I forget who I answered it with, but he already has the volume of evidence in the bank.
I mean, when you start studying a player in college, you’re looking for him to make plays. Well, he doesn’t take long to find this guy. He’s a highlight reel. You’ve got a highlight reel. Just imagine, do you want to make his highlight real for the year? How would you like to be his age when it came to that? There would be plenty of evidence; you could put play after play on there, and they’re all from this year. You don’t have to go to any other year.
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