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September 24, 2008

Getting Tate his touches

In three games so far this season, Golden Tate has touched the football 20 times for an average of slightly less than seven per game.

He has 15 receptions for 303 yards (a 20.2-yard average), four kickoff returns for 86 yards (21.5), and one rush for 24 yards.

In other words, every time he touches the football-regardless whether he's catching a pass, returning a kickoff or taking a handoff-he's averaging more than 20 yards.

At that rate, shouldn't Notre Dame try to get him 10, 12, 15 touches per game?

"Yes, we love to have the ball in his hands because he's shown to be a playmaker every week," acknowledged Irish head coach Charlie Weis.

"We have a list of guys we call playmakers, and we try to make sure they're in position to make big plays for us," said offensive coordinator Mike Haywood.

Is Tate on that playmaker list?

"He's on the playmaker list," Haywood said.

Is Tate at the top of that playmaker list?

"He's at the top of the playmaker list," Haywood said.

The Irish also are trying to avoid the law of diminishing returns. The more Tate touches the football, the less effective he'll be, or rather, the less effective the rest of the offensive players will be.

Thus, Weis and Haywood are trying to strike a balance. Using Tate as a decoy has its benefits as well.

"If everyone wants to roll over coverage to him and roll everything up over here and let all these other guys be one-on-one on the other side, that isn't a bad thing either," Weis said.

"We have confidence in Michael Floyd and David Grimes, and that's before you even get into (Duval) Kamara, Robby (Parris), George (West) and all the other guys."

"Safeties will start rolling over to me, which is actually a good thing because it will open things up for guys like Floyd, Kamara and Grimes," Tate echoed.

But the fact remains Tate is the most dangerous of Notre Dame's offensive weapons, with Floyd a close second. Getting Tate more touches is a proven formula for success. His six catches as a rookie wide receiver covered 21.8 yards per reception as well.

Ironically, Tate left some yards on the field against Michigan State on his 24-yard reverse run.

"After watching film, I should have taken it to the house," said Tate, who cut back inside instead of using Kamara's seal block that would have sprung him up the sideline. "I had flashbacks to high school days when I used to cross the field and run. I'm going to have to stop that and use my speed to get up the sideline."

Haywood seems comfortable with the number of touches Tate is getting per game.

"What we try to do is move Golden around to put him in position to have success," Haywood said. "Not trying to overload him, but making sure he can have success.

"When he's touching the ball six or eight times a game, that's a pretty good number. There are other ways to get him the football. We'll find ways to make sure he stays in the game to make plays no matter what they do on defense."

Tate is diplomatic about the issue of additional touches. But he wouldn't mind a few more.

"Anytime I can get the ball, I want it in my hands," Tate smiled. "I'm kind of greedy with it."



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