FOOTBALL: Big catches make Tate instant fan favorite
Chris Khorey | Friday, October 5, 2007
Golden Tate has been on Notre Dame’s campus for a month – which is about the same amount of time he’s been playing wide receiver.
He only has three collegiate catches, and, so far, he’s only come off the bench to run go-routes.
But in those three catches, Tate has become a hot name in the dining hall.
“People can see he’s got some speed, people can see he’s got some explosion, and people can see he’s got some ball skills,” Irish wide receivers coach Rob Ianello said.
Tate hauled three of the four passes thrown his way in a 33-19 loss to Purdue Saturday, leaping and diving for the ball and blowing by defenders who probably knew by the third or fourth time they guarded him exactly what he was going to do.
In all, Tate amassed 104 yards receiving – and became a fan favorite in the process.
His circus catches are one the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal 0-5 start for Notre Dame. Students are already thinking up nicknames for his patented fly routes, including “Golden Gos.”
There is a group on Facebook.com selling T-shirts that read “Golden is thy Tate” and feature an Xs and Os diagram with a straight line pointing up field labeled “23” for Tate’s jersey number.
But on the practice field, Irish coaches are still working to get the freshman, who was mainly a running back in high school, used to playing receiver in a collegiate offense.
“When you’re a young guy, the first thing you’re trying to do is get lined up and learn the offense,” Ianello said. “He played multiple positions in high school, so settling in to one position, he’s growing with it.”
Head coach Charlie Weis said the Irish are trying to “fast track” Tate’s development so they can expand his role as quickly as possible.
“We all found out the other day that he can run go-routes and catch the ball in traffic,” Weis said. “Now we have to make sure he can run a handful of other routes and run them with some type of precision, so you’re not guessing where he’s going to be on different routes. That’s what we’re going to work on this week.”
Ianello said the staff will include Tate in more plays, but he declined to comment on specifics.
“If I told you that, you could e-mail it to [UCLA defensive coordinator] DeWayne Walker,” he said.
Despite Tate’s inexperience at receiver, Weis said, the freshman worked his way onto the field by his hard work on the show team, imitating opponent’s plays for the starters.
“For the last two or three weeks he’s easily been the best player on the field going against our defense,” Weis said. “And when you watch the tape, and you see him make these plays, then you want to get him on the field on offense.”
Weis said he used Tate “as an example to the entire team as what you can do by running full speed on the show team.”
“We had this conversation on Sunday with the team,” Weis said. “Sometimes when people are running the ‘look squad’ to simulate the opponent’s offense or defense, they look at that like it’s a penalty.”
While at John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., Tate was named Mr. Football for the state of Tennessee. During his junior year, he had more than 1,100 yards rushing and added 800 receiving.
“I remember watching his highlight tape with my wife at my house,” Ianello said. “I said, ‘Can we get that guy?'”