Wisconsin freshman RB Jonathan Taylor is already a Heisman candidate going into the Week 10 game against Indiana.
Taylor has 1,185 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on only 161 attempts this season. Taylor’s impressive start has him on the shortlist of the country’s best running backs.
Who is Jonathan Taylor? 5 things to know about the Wisconsin running back
1. Jonathan Taylor won’t slow down if the workload remains high
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.
Besides, Badgers legend Ron Dayne is a big fan of Taylor already. As reported by Land of 10’s Sean Keeler:
No Badgers freshman other than Dayne has ever run for more than 1,600 yards in a season — P.J. Hill’s 1,569 in 2006 ranks No. 2 all-time, followed by Anthony Davis’ 1,466 in 2001. Given that Wisconsin is expected to win the Big Ten West for the third time in four seasons, there’s the potential for a healthy Taylor to appear in at least 14 games.
“He’s got a little bit of everything,” Dayne said of Taylor. “That’s what I like about him. He can catch. He can run. He can run you over. He can run past you. He’s working on his blocking game — once you learn the system, it’s a lot easier. He’s just learning the system.
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.
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.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy lives right down the road from me. This is so crazy.’ I’m like, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ So (Clement) kind of jump-started me getting started with the game of football.”
Jonathan Taylor on Corey Clement