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Welcome To The Big Show: Toby Gerhart

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  Over the next few weeks, we will be unveiling some in-depth articles that allow you to better know the newest Vikings draft class and undrafted free agents.  These articles are not intended to be “fluff pieces” like you will find elsewhere, but rather a comprehensive look at each of them as a person and as a football player.]

On the second day of the draft, the Vikings gave up their second and third round draft picks (#62 & #93 overall) to move up eleven spots (to #51 overall) and nab the rookie that Vikings fans will be most excited to see in purple, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. 

If this year didn’t happen to be Tebow-Palooza, then Gerhart may have been the most discussed prospect in this draft. 

It is fairly obvious that the Vikings did not want to let Gerhart go to another team (Houston was thought to be considering him at #51) and that they think quite highly of them, considering they gave up such valuable draft picks to move up just a few spots to draft him.  Judging from the reaction in our Live Chat, I wasn’t alone in wondering why they would do this when guys like Montario Hardesty and Ben Tate were still on the board.

But they did it, and there is no reason not to believe that they got a very special player out of the deal.

The 23 year-old California native holds the state record for high school career rushing yards at 9,662, and led his team to a State Championship victory in 2005.  Besides being the top football player in California, Gerhart was also a skilled baseball player and graduated as the valedictorian of Norco High School.

After being heavily recruited by many of the Nation’s top football programs, Gerhart recently admitted that his choice came down to Stanford and UCLA.  The Vikings current running backs coach, Eric Bieniemy, was winning the recruiting battle as the running backs coach at UCLA.  Two days before Gerhart made his decision, Bieniemy took the coaching position with the Vikings which ultimately caused Gerhart to choose Stanford over UCLA.

At Stanford, Gerhart is a Management Science and Engineering major, and while he took the winter quarter off to prepare for the NFL Draft, he is expected to finish his degree during the spring months.

At Stanford, Gerhart began his career as a backup in 2006 and then suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2007. 

In 2008, however, Gerhart began to turn heads when he posted a school record of 1,136 yards and also scored 15 rushing touchdowns.

Gerhart was a starting outfielder for the Stanford baseball team and passed up a chance to play pro baseball in 2009, a decision which I don’t think he regrets one bit.  Gerhart’s 2009 performance was incredible as he rumbled for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns.  He was the runner up for the 2009 Heisman Trophy, losing out by only 28 points to Mark Ingram which was the slimmest margin in the 74 years the award has been around.

Season
Rushing
 
Receiving
Att
Yds
Avg
Lng
TD
Rec
Yds
Avg
Lng
TD
2006
106
375
3.5
38
0
15
124
8.3
16
0
2007
12
140
11.7
48
1
0
0
0
0
0
2008
210
1,136
5.4
46
15
13
114
8.8
21
0
2009
343
1,871
5.5
61
28
11
157
14.3
33
0
Total
671
3,522
5.2
61
44
39
395
10.1
33
0

Heisman was about the only award in which Gerhart got second place, as he was constantly winning various awards for being the best running back in the country.  As he prepared for the draft, however, it became clear that something was getting in the way of him being declared the top running back in his own draft class.

Gerhart has somewhat struggled with might be best described as racism, to a certain extent, because he is white.  White is not the skin color of your prototypical NFL running back, but Gerhart thinks comparisons are to big lumbering full backs are unfair.  He claims to have more speed and more “wiggle” than many fullbacks and his numbers in college are all the evidence that you should need to back that up.

Instead of being compared to Mike Alstott like many have been doing, Gerhart thinks he plays more like a Corey Dillon. 

While there is no denying that Gerhart does not have elite speed like an Adrian Peterson or a Chris Johnson, he has an unexpected burst evidenced by his 4.53 forty yard dash at the Combine.  Among running backs at the Combine he was also fourth in lifting reps (22), fifth in the vertical jump (38”), eighth in the broad jump (9’ 10”), seventh in 3-cone drill (6.94), and eighth in the 20-yard shuffle (4.25).

Despite his display of surprising athleticism, there is no getting around what makes Gerhart so dangerous.  He is a thumper at 6’ 0” and 231 lbs., which led the Gabbers Nation to suggest nicknames for him such “White lightning” and “The Polar Express” during our draft day Live Chat.

Gerhart is a powerful runner whose motor never stops and he even seems to be a “momentum runner” that becomes better as the game wears on and as the opposing defenses begin to get worn down by his bulldozing ways.

College defenses feared Gerhart because of his ability to make the first tackler look absolutely silly as they tried unsuccessfully to get him on the ground.  He is a patient runner that recognizes blocking assignments and will find the hole before really turning up the volume.

Gerhart has an upright running style that Vikings fans have become familiar with over the last three years (see:  Adrian Peterson) and prefers to truck a defender rather than learn an array of useful open-field moves.  He has nearly perfected the stiff arm, but don’t expect to see Gerhart whip out any flashy spins or jukes on NFL defenders.  Ball security is also a problem Vikings fans have been familiar with as of late, and Gerhart is not necessarily someone that will make them feel too much better about that issue.

While Vikings fans can expect a high character, hard working, bull dozing back they should not think of Gerhart as a “take it to the house” type of guy.  His value will not come in the form of numerous 60 yard touchdowns.  Instead, he will be a proficient pass blocker, decent run blocker, short yardage phenom, decent pass catcher and all around solid option as a third down back.

If the unspeakable were to happen and Peterson were to have to miss a considerable amount of time, then Gerhart’s true potential will show because the Vikings coaches have no doubt that Gerhart is capable of carrying this team as an every down back.

In the end, Gerhart is practically set in stone as Peterson’s primary backup.  What will be interesting is to see how this affects the rest of the Vikings plans in the backfield.  They currently have eight running back on the roster in Peterson, Gerhart, Albert Young, Fahu Tahi, Ian Johnson, James Johnson, Darius Reynaud, and Ryan D’Imperio.  It could actually be looked at as ten backs if you consider that Jeff Dugan and Jimmy Kleinsasser both saw some time at fullback.  Aw, heck, let’s make it eleven backs when you consider that they will almost surely give Percy Harvin some touches again this year.

Most of last season, the Vikings only had two tailbacks active on game day.  They also typically had Tahi, Dugan, and Kleinsasser active on the game day roster, but Dugan and Kleinsasser were primarily tight ends.

So this is a puzzle that will be very interesting to see the Vikings assemble as training camp and the preseason comes about.  I would say that Peterson and Gerhart are obvious locks to make the roster, but the rest (including Tahi and Kleinsasser) have been put on notice by the drafting of Gerhart and potential fullback Ryan D’Imperio.

If the Vikings feel they can have D’Imperio make a big impact on special teams and share some fullback reps with Gerhart or a tight end, then this could spell the end for Tahi.

Regardless of who ends up making the roster, the Vikings seemed to put an emphasis on upgrading the backfield rather than the offensive line, which seems to suggest that the Vikings are confident they will get better play along the offensive line this year.

I hope that is the case, because I am uber-excited to see what Gerhart can do when he finds a decent sized hole to roll through, and it would be a shame to have our offensive line struggle to do that for him simply becuase we gave up two high draft picks (which could have been used on the O-Line) to get him on the roster.  Oh, and if you have Peterson in you fantasy football keeper league… I wouldn’t bank on double digit touchdowns again this year… Gerhart will steal the goalline carries I bet.


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22 Responses to “Welcome To The Big Show: Toby Gerhart”

  1. krugjr says:

    this guy MADE our draft and will change our offensive gameplanning…….in a very good way!

    GO VIKES!!!!!

  2. Viking John says:

    From the video, what a horse.
    Go Vikes

  3. Tony Pants says:

    bwaak bwaak bwaaak

  4. olderthandirt says:

    Another great post Adam. I especially like the fact that he is smart and articulate. Maybe he can teach TJ something and the others that had “academic” suspensions.

  5. Purple Charlie says:

    I hope this gets AP thinking a little more about holding on to the ball or holding it different to solve the problem…

    This guy is a tank, I like the change up, Hope the O-line gets it together this year…

    The more you here about him, The more you like him…

  6. Norseman66 says:

    Check out what NFL.com said about the Vikings draft. They gave a big kudos to the Vikes for their selections. Did we all watch the same draft? or did we miss something regarding the picks?

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Consider the source. NFLN, NFL.com, and the NFL as a whole… it is their job to make sure every single fan of every single team is excited about the upcoming season. They sell hope this time of year… and hope sells tickets/jerseys.

  7. bigjohnny84 says:

    This guy is a freakin stud. He seems to have great vision also. hope it translates well into the NFL.

  8. Norseman66 says:

    The one thing that does worry me about him is 553 carries in the last 2 years. That’s a lot of wear and tear.

  9. bigjohnny84 says:

    Fran, Charlie is a very wise man in my humble opinion.

  10. fozz44 says:

    johnny….I knew you’d have positive comment about the draft sooner or later!

    • bigjohnny84 says:

      Fozz, what are your thoughts on the draft? I think Toby is a keeper but not sure about the rest. We’ve got qbs drafted to be wrs. We’ve got lb’s drafted to be fb’s and our first pick is drafted to be a cb but is thought to be a safety.

      • fozz44 says:

        Lots of questions marks, for sure. With 22 starters returning, there really wasn’t a need to find a fix anywhere. I like Gerhart a LOT on this team….he can be a pounder and a good complement to AP. Cook, as you mentioned is iffy, but he’s got the size and speed necessary…we’ll see what some tutoring from Winfield, Shepard and Frazier can do for him. Drafting cornerbacks has been such a failure for the Vikes, I’m not getting my hopes too high.
        Griffen looks like he could really thrive as well with some good mentoring. Jared Allen isn’t going to let the guy ‘dog it’, starting with mini camps.
        At the end of the day….I’d really give it an overall “C”….not a whole lot of reward, but could find some role players and contributors out of the bunch.

        I’m still hoping they can sign an O-lineman like Faneca (Cards already gobbled him up) that can help provide depth and stability. If they do that, the pressure if off for this draft

      • starrc10 says:

        I really disagree with the “22 starters not much need” approach, we should have only drafted 3 players in the first round for quality since this team is already so deep. Get some quality a quality safety, a quality CB and a Quality Guard/Center. Call it a draft, trade all the other picks out of there.

  11. Purple Charlie says:

    Johnny,I remember watching the draft on Nfl Nework, Mike Mayock was saying he thought they might go for a CB because of Cedric’s injury, He said there was more value out there as far as other picks, Clausen others, But he said that Chris Cook Fitted the Tampy 2 scheme the best… They picked him… I think he will only get better around our defence!!!

    Toby is going to be a keeper as you said…

    I’m excited to see how our 4th rounder Everson Griffen will do, I think being around Jared Allen will be the right medicine for him!!!

    I’m going to say at least one of the other guys left, maybe two, will help on Special Teams… Just my humble opinion bud…

  12. […] comes the draft, and with their second pick of the weekend, the Vikings selected Toby Gerhart… a running […]

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    Lot sandstone finishes that add classy charm. Such an wall beome applicable for a room in which you don’t hang heavy information. There arre a parades, and shows,and concerts.

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