#32, Toby Gerhart, RB
(6000, 231, 4.47-4.58) Stanford
Notes: Born 3/28/87, in Norco, California. Parents are Lori and Todd Gerhart. The oldest of six children, four of them college athletes. Brother, Garth, is an offensive lineman at Arizona State. Three sisters play softball at Stanford, another at Cal Poly. Father (who was also his coach in high school) was an All-Conference running back at Cal State Fullerton (1981-84) before playing for the Denver Gold of the USFL from 1985-86 and training camp with the Vikings (1986) Houston Oilers (1987). Gerhart had a record-breaking career at running back for Norco High School. He set a California state record for rushing yards with 9,662 yards in his career. Rushed for 3,233 yards and scored 39 touchdowns as a senior while leading Norco to the Division V Southern Section championship. He was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year for the state of California and was named California's Mr. Football by Cal-Hi Sports. He also played baseball. Set numerous career records at Norco, including runs scored (112), hits (125), homers (18), stolen bases (39), batting average (.440) and on-base percentage (.550). Chosen as team MVP his senior year as he hit .500 with 8 homers, 14 stolen bases and a school-record .645 on-base percentage. Established a school record with a .549 batting average during his junior campaign, with 7 home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .640 on-base percentage. Was ranked as the 50th best prospect among the 2006 Top 50 high school prospects by Baseball America. Graduated as valedictorian of his high school class of nearly 700 students. Also played three seasons of basketball, lettering twice.
College: Chose Stanford citing academics and prestige but was also heavily recruited by Duke, Mississippi, Utah and UCLA, where Vikings running backs coach Eric Bienemy pursued him before leaving to come to Minnesota. Saw limited action as a true freshman in 2006, rushing 106 times for 375 yards (3.5 avg.); caught 15 passes for 124 yards (8.3 avg.). Opened the 2007 season with 12-140-1 (11.7 avg.) against San Jose State before tearing the PCL in his left knee and missing the rest of the season. Came back to start 10-of-12 games in 2008; broke Tommy Vardell's single-season rushing record with 210-1,136-15 (5.4 avg.) with 13-114-0 (8.8 avg.) receiving, despite missing some time with a mild concussion and right hamstring injury. In 2009, he won the Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back) and was runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting after rushing 343-1,871-28 (5.5 avg.) and catching 11-157-0 (14.3 avg.). Team captain who played three seasons of baseball in college as well. Management Science and Engineering major. Here's a YouTube clip of Gerhart highlights.
Pre-Draft: 4.53 in the 40-yard dash...1.55 10-yard dash...2.63 20-yard dash...4.25 20-yard shuttle...6.94 three-cone drill...38-inch vertical jump...9'10" broad jump...Bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times...32-inch arm length...9 5/8-inch hands.
Pro: Second-round draft choice (No. 51 overall) by the Vikings in 2010, on a pick acquired from Houston in exchange for their second- (No. 62; Florida LB Brandon Spikes by New England) and third-round pick (No. 93; Iowa TE Tony Moeaki by Houston).
Positives: Quick, nifty, instinctive inside runner with terrific vision and pick. Flows into open lanes naturally and follows his blockers superbly. Patient runner. Consistently slips arm tackles and drives for additional yardage after initial contact. Excellent balance, leg drive and determination. Fights for extra yardage, but protects the ball nicely in doing so. Deceptively fast and runs so hard that he's very field fast. Effective goal-line runner. Has a nose for the endzone. Willing and capable blocker who's highly intelligent, has played in a pro-style offense and will not be a liability on the blitz pickup. Understands the nuances of the game and the strategy of various blitz packages. Good hands and a productive pass receiver. Tremendous competitor who's been extremely productive. Outstanding character.
Negatives: More of a build-up speed guy than explosive. A little tight in the hips and more of a weave and cut guy than a make-you-miss runner. Runs a bit too upright at times, negating some of his power. Does not have true finishing speed. Already has a lot of mileage and has taken a lot of hits. Still wears a knee brace on his left knee. Still needs some refinement as a pass catcher and blocker.
Summary: An incredibly good fit for the Vikings as an immediate replacement for the departed Chester Taylor as the "other" back behind Adrian Peterson. He won't have to carry the offense and take a 25-carries-per-game pounding. He can do all the things Peterson struggles with and should be a terrific compliment. Like Taylor, it won't be much of a rest to face Gerhart as a runner out of the backfield. He should also be able to learn the offense quickly enough to contribute as a pass receiver and handle pass protection.
What they said:
"He has excellent in-line quickness for a big back, what we describe as an inside zone runner and most of our offense is predicated on inside zones. He does have very good hands out of the backfield. He's a big back that can stand there in (for) pass protection. I always felt and believed that you have to have two backs in this league. One back, regardless of how great that back is, to take a 16-game pounding, plus hopefully into the playoffs, just wears and tears on the body. Everywhere I've been, we've always had two pretty good backs. Now this gives us another big back to go along with some of the other guys we have." -Rick Spielman
"He surely has the ability to be able to step up in front of a linebacker and be able to (pass) protect just like Chester and really Albert (Young). The system is the same. Our protection scheme's the same. His mass is actually bigger than Chester. He should be able to do all the check-down stuff within our system." -Brad Childress
"With Chester Taylor being signed by the division-rival Bears in free agency, the Vikings needed a complementary back to relieve some of the burden from Adrian Peterson. Gerhart should do just that and could be a welcome addition as a short-yardage runner given the tendency of Peterson to put the ball on the ground. He adds much-needed depth and power to the Vikings' ground game." -Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly
"Gerhart is a powerful downhill, between-the-tackles runner. He runs hard with good balance and reads his inside blocks well. However, he's not a one-dimensional guy. He has the lateral ability and burst to bounce runs outside." -ESPN Draft Tracker
"I'm extremely excited and ready to get up there and help contribute to the team." -Gerhart
"He [Vikings running backs coach Eric Bienemy] recruited me out of high school. He was at UCLA. Two days before signing day he leaves to go to the Vikings, and that was a major factor in why I didn't go to UCLA. They didn't have a running backs coach, and I really had a good relationship with him. And now it's kind of ironic that four years later I get a chance to finally work with him. I'm excited. I talked to him on the phone briefly and he's excited, and I'm really looking forward to it." -Gerhart
"Gerhart is a tough, physical runner who can leave less of the dirty work for A.D. Most teams have two backs who could be the bellcow any given week, and Gerhart is a nice player to add to a Super Bowl-caliber roster." -Eric Edholm, Pro Football Weekly
"Gerhart was a terrific pick at No. 51. When the Vikings need short yardage, the bruising 6-foot, 231-pounder will be the guy. And, people who have met Gerhart say you couldn't meet a nicer, more humble guy." -Charley Walters, Pioneer Press
"The Vikings add a bruising running back with the selection of Toby Gerhart. Although Adrian Peterson remains the workhorse, Gerhart has the versatile skill set to contribute as a rotational player in the backfield. With his toughness and all-around skills, Gerhart is an ideal fit." -NFL.com
"I love the guy. You've got to see him live to appreciate him. He's not just a plodder. He's deceptively fast, elusive, has quick feet and has great vision at the line of scrimmage. And he's great in the red zone. He's a bell-cow back. If there's nothing there, he'll get four yards. He was productive in high school and in college, and guys like that don't change - he'll be productive in the NFL." -Dave Razzano, former NFL scout
"The Vikings needed a solid running back behind Adrian Peterson with Chester Taylor moving on to Chicago. Toby Gerhart is miscast as a slow, white running back. He's not. He's very skilled and can handle the load if Peterson gets hurt. (Pick Grade: A)" -WalterFootball.com
"Will fit in perfectly with Minnesota. Gerhart will jump right into Chester Taylor's spot in the Minnesota offense, but he will add the dimension of a punishing runner that Minnesota needs as a change of pace back for Adrian Peterson. There are two keys that will lead to success with Gerhart in the Minnesota backfield. Gerhart is a solid receiver out in the flat from the running back position and Gerhart does not fumble the ball. Gerhart may get carries down inside the Minnesota red zone if Peterson begins coughing up the ball again in 2010. Gerhart will play in every Minnesota game during the 2010 NFL season." -Todd Jacobs, AssociatedContent.com
Kevin Brown has been providing personnel analysis and writing about the Vikings for more than 20 years with Viking Update. Follow VU on Twitter and discuss this and other topics on our message boards.