There are several measurables you look for in your running back. Size, speed, quickness - these are scrutinized to unending depths by college coaches, recruiting analysts and fans. But at some point, production trumps everything else. And there has been no more productive runner the last few years in the Golden State than Norco High School's Toby Gerhart.
The 6'1" 216-pound tailback already has more than 6,400 career yards rushing before he steps foot on the field for his senior season, and that has him within a very reachable striking distance of the 8,500-yard California state career rushing record held by Lorenzo Booker. Gerhart would be even closer to the record if not for an ankle injury he suffered in the sixth game of his junior season this past fall, which kept him out of the lineup or in limited action until the tail end of the season. The one-legged wonder still rushed for more than 2,200 yards with a 7.9 per-carry average and 27 touchdowns. As a sophomore, Gerhart put up one of the best seasons in the nation, with 3,000+ yards and 33 touchdowns. In five games as a freshman with the varsity, he amassed 1,200 yards.
"I'm not the flashiest guy, but at the end of the day, I'm productive," the junior tailback offers. "I think I run harder than the rest. After contact, I get the three or four extra yards. I have the power. When other guys slash, I run over tacklers."
The Norco High School standout is also a star on the baseball diamond, with the ability to hit for power or average. The Cougars are using him currently as a contact hitter early in the 2005 season, having him hit lead-off. Through 11 games he is doing his job, and then some, hitting .584 with seven doubles and one home run.
"I can hit for more power, but they need me to be a contact hitter right now," says the Norco right fielder. "I'm hitting with my power into the gaps."
The two-sport star somehow manages to balance both varsity sports at an elite performance level while still shining in the classroom. He holds a weighted 4.67 GPA that has him ranked #1 in his high school class. Gerhart has never had as much as a single "B" on a report card in his life, with a perfect "A" average.
That complete package is a natural fit for the Cardinal to recruit, and the Norco student-athlete reports on the efforts he has felt from both Stanford programs.
"Coach [Wayne] Moses came down to Norco High a couple months ago and talked with my coach. I've had several letters from him and Stanford," Gerhart shares. "For baseball, I've talked with Coach [Dean] Stotz on the phone and we've exchanged emails. I'm going to the Stanford Baseball Camp in July. I called last week and told them I was heading up that weekend to see the campus and meet the coaches."
"I want to play both football and baseball in college, and Stanford is one place willing to let me do that," he adds.
Gerhart and his family spent Saturday and Sunday touring the campus and meeting with the football staff, including attendance at two practices. The baseball coaches returned from their weekend sweep in Pullman in time for a Monday morning meeting with the outfield recruit. His meetings included face time with football head coach Walt Harris and baseball skipper Mark Marquess. After a long round trip and many hours spent with meetings and tours, Gerhart did not return to Southern California empty-handed.
"Coach Harris offered me this weekend," the running back recruit excitedly reports. "It took me a little by surprise. Coach Moses had sent me letters to my house, and he had said they liked me a lot. I was hoping they would offer, but it was a surprise. I tell you, I was so excited, I can't remember much of what he actually said."
Gerhart did also spend some time with Moses and was comforted to learn how the Cardinal would like to use him on the gridiron.
"He told me they see me as a tailback, which is what I want to play. So that's good," the Riverside recruit says. "They like me because I'm big, strong and productive."
With a full 48 hours spent on campus, plus the chance to meet and get to know coaches from both programs, you can bet that Toby Gerhart is riding high on the Cardinal right now. In fact, he says they are his leader in his college recruitment.
"Stanford is at the top of my list right now. They're number one after my experiences there this weekend," he declares. "I love it up there. It's just a beautiful campus and so clean. Everything is top notch, including all their sports facilities. I saw their weight room, the locker room, training table - it's all top notch. And the school itself is so beautiful and clean. I like how the campus has a forest feel to it. I like how green it is - and the mountains that surround it. I felt really comfortable there."
The Stanford offer joins those Gerhart has received from UCLA, UTEP, Ole Miss and Duke. The Norco two-sport standout says his group of favorites behind Stanford, in no particular order, are UCLA, Duke, Ole Miss, Michigan and Notre Dame. His offer list will only grow, but Gerhart admits there is a temptation to cut his recruitment short right now.
"On the way back home, I said it might be good for me to commit early. I could just focus on my senior season," the recruit relays. "I need to talk with my family about everything and see what to do. I'm not sure right now."
With that hint at a possible commitment in the near future, we will be sure to stick close to the Toby Gerhart story. The Norco standout is also scheduled to receive his SAT score one week from today, and he is optimistic that he fared well ("I'm a pretty good writer, and there is not so much vocab and analogies on the new SAT, which were my weakness."). We will keep you abreast of his latest as it develops.
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