Who is Jonathan Taylor? 5 things to know about Wisconsin’s freshman running back

Landof 10 - Originally buried behind veterans on the Wisconsin running back depth chart, freshman Jonathan Taylor made his name known ...


Landof 10 - Originally buried behind veterans on the Wisconsin running back depth chart, freshman Jonathan Taylor made his name known by leading the Badgers in rushing yards in Saturday’s win over Utah State.

Taylor put up 87 yards on 9 carries, half the amount of carries that top back Bradrick Shaw received. And it wasn’t like he was just hitting empty holes. The freshman showed impressive balance and vision as he racked up several of Wisconsin’s biggest runs.

Who is Jonathan Taylor? 5 things to know about the Wisconsin running back

1. Jonathan Taylor is poised for even more work going forward

As if averaging 9.7 yards per carry wasn’t enough to warrant more carries for Taylor, Shaw is now questionable for the game Saturday vs. Florida Atlantic with a right leg injury. That could create an opening for Taylor as large as any the Wisconsin offensive line could open for him.

Still, Taylor remains a freshman and we’re only dealing with a one-game sample. But even if Shaw and Chris James reassert themselves atop the running back depth chart, Wisconsin has a strong history of giving freshmen plenty of carries if they show they can handle it, like James White’s 1,052 rushing yards in 2010 and Melvin Gordon’s 621 yards in 2012,

2. Jonathan Taylor was the breakout star of Wisconsin’s fall camp

When Wisconsin’s first depth chart was released, it was somewhat surprising to see Taylor listed as co-starter with Shaw and James. It was not a surprise for those who had watched him in camp.

Taylor began receiving significant reps in practice after an injury sidelined Taiwan Deal and soon, safety D’Cota Dixon was referring to Taylor as “Beast Mode,” referencing Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch. By the end of camp, Taylor was drawing nearly universal praise from all corners of Wisconsin’s team.

3. Jonathan Taylor was the fastest high schooler in New Jersey last year

Wisconsin has seen some fast running backs in the past, but few have been track athletes like Taylor. He was a two-time New Jersey state champion in the 100-meter dash, running a 10.64-second sprint in the finals last season.

Add that speed to a body that measures 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds, and you have a running back that will never be easy to tackle in the open field. It definitely worked in Taylor’s senior year, when he posted a South Jersey-record 2,815 rushing yards along with 37 total touchdowns.

4. Jonathan Taylor was originally committed to Rutgers

Poor Rutgers. As if being expected to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten again wasn’t enough, the Scarlet Knights now have to watch an old commit tear up defenses on the other side of the conference.

Taylor committed to Rutgers in May 2016 and de-committed a few months later in October. Just three days later, Taylor was a Badgers commit.

5. Jonathan Taylor committed to Wisconsin because of Ron Dayne and Corey Clement

Why did Taylor commit to the Badgers? Well, it goes beyond Wisconsin being a great place for running backs thanks to an emphasis on the run game, strong offensive line and reputation as a program that develops NFL-level talent.

Taylor saw a path to football paved in the past by New Jersey running backs Corey Clement and Ron Dayne. His 2,815 rushing yards last season actually broke Clement’s old record of 2,510. Picking the program where Clement and Dayne reached the top of the Big Ten was only natural.

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