"He ran everything but," Ianello stated after practice on Tuesday. "Just certain things like that just to try to keep him improving, keep him coming."
And Tate is coming.
Tate made his second-career start in Notre Dame's last game two weeks ago against then No. 9 USC, catching one pass for 22 yards, in the 38-0 loss. For the season, he has five receptions for 126 yards and one touchdown. The Hendersonville, Tenn. product showed his explosiveness against Purdue, catching three passes for a team season-high 104 yards, including a diving 25-yard scoring reception. Tate nearly helped spark a comeback in the 33-19 loss. The following week, he made his first-career start against UCLA.
The memo was quickly out on Tate for opposing defenses. When No. 23 hits the field, watch out for the deep ball. That ability has forced head coach Charlie Weis and Ianello to quicken the learning process for Tate, in order to get his explosiveness on the field regularly. Precise route running is the issue for a guy who played mostly running back in high school.
"Well, he's doing a much better job of running intermediate routes," Weis said. "We all know he can run a deep route. The one thing that I think, the discipline, not discipline as in being an undisciplined person, but learning how to run short to intermediate routes is probably the thing with a guy who runs real fast, the thing that they have to learn is how you can't just run goes on every route. You have to learn how to be more disciplined running short and intermediate routes. I think he's significantly improved in that area.
"I think like any freshman, the more you're out there, and the more you get repetition, and the more you're getting experiences of doing things, you're just going to be better," Ianello explained. "He's no different than anybody else. The more he gets a chance to work, the better he'll be."
More work will come for Tate this Saturday, as the Irish (1-7) host Navy (4-4). The Midshipmen rank last in the nation in pass-efficiency defense.
***On top of his playmaking ability, another reason why Tate was pressed into service was because starting receiver David Grimes injured his ankle in the first half of the Purdue game. He missed the second half of that contest and the following two games against UCLA and Boston College.
The 5-foot-11, 177-pound junior played against USC, but did not catch a pass.
"It felt like forever," Grimes said of his injury stint. His 15 receptions rank fifth on the team. He has 117 yards receiving.
"I think the injury just took time. I was out there doing what I could do, and the coaches had to make a decision. I just went with it."
Now Grimes is just trying to get back into the regular flow.
"I'm day-to-day," he said, giving the company line. "I've been getting back into the rotation, slowly regaining my confidence, slowly getting back up to full speed. I'm feeling pretty good."
***On Tuesday, Weis stated that Evan Sharpley would be making his second-career start against Navy. He struggled in his first start against USC, completing 17-of-33 passes for just 117 yards. His last throw was intercepted, and he was sacked five times.
"I think just playing the whole game and getting used to the ins and outs of the game and the nuances and different things that are going on was a big help," Sharpley said. He has shown his potential this season, coming off the bench and nearly leading the Irish to comeback wins in losses to the Boilermakers and No. 2 Boston College.
"Obviously you gain a lot more experience and you do get to see yourself on tape and learn from mistakes that you made and move on and try and improve."
Sharpley is hoping to see that improvement against the Midshipmen. Navy's defense has allowed over 400 yards of offense in six game this season. The latest, a 59-52 loss to Delaware.
"I think we're very confident in the plays we're running, and hopefully that will show up on Saturday in putting some points on the board," he said.
***With Notre Dame off last Saturday, Weis began preparing for Navy and its option offense last week. Last season it was Demetrius Jones running as the scout-team quarterback, giving the Irish defense a taste of the Midshipmen attack. The transfer was named the show-team player of the week. Handling those duties this year has been third and fourth-string quarterbacks Darrin Bragg and Justin Gillett.
"They both in high school ran in an option mode," Weis said. "I think that both quarterbacks have done a pretty solid job the last week and a half running the stuff."