At Wisconsin, being a running back comes with some very high expectations.
Not only do Wisconsin running backs get the privilege of running behind what is usually a behemoth Big Ten offensive line, but the Badgers’ offense always seems to be predicated on a strong rushing attack.
If you’re a running back at Wisconsin, you’ll have the chance to put up a ton of yards and make a name for yourself. Again, however, the expectations are high. There are some very big shoes to fill, and that always seems to be the case.
This season it’s senior Corey Clement who’s running the show. The 5-foot-11, 227-pound Glassboro, N.J. product has rushed 161 times for 699 yards and six touchdowns. There’s a good chance he gets over 1,000 yards before the end of the season, and over his four-year Wisconsin career, he’s notched over 2,400 yards and is nearing 30 touchdowns.
Clement is the successor of Melvin Gordon, who’s in the midst of a breakout season in his second year in the NFL. Gordon has rushed 161 times for 572 yards and eight touchdowns for the San Diego Chargers, while also catching 24 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Gordon was a beast at Wisconsin and put up Heisman Trophy-worthy numbers. In his senior season, he rushed 343 times for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns (plus 153 yards and three touchdowns through the air). In four seasons at Wisconsin, Gordon totaled 4,915 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns on the ground.
So those are the expectations for Jonathan Taylor, three-star running back from Salem, N.J. (Salem). Taylor committed to Wisconsin on the first day of November, and as Wisconsin’s only 2017 running back commit so far, he’ll likely eventually be asked to follow the likes of Clement and Gordon — not to mention players such as Montee Ball, John Clay, Michael Bennett and Ron Dayne, among others — in running behind Wisconsin’s big offensive line.
No pressure, right?
Actually, at least in the case of Taylor, the answer to that question actually is right. Talking to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports after his commitment, he appears to relish the opportunity to be a big-time back for the Badgers. He appears to relish the scheme and the pressure it puts on the shoulder of Badger backs.
“Wisconsin feeds the ball to their running backs,” Taylor told Bartow. “They highlight their running backs. Their run game opens their pass game. They are looking for tough guys. They run downhill a lot and I enjoy running downhill. They run that pro-style offense.”
Yale and Virginia Tech were also main options for Taylor, but he was also recently committed to Rutgers. He committed to the Scarlet Knights on May 1st, but decommitted shortly after an official visit to Wisconsin. He officially visited Madison on October 15th. He backed off his Rutgers pledge on October 29th and he’s now set to become a Badger.
“Wisconsin’s offensive line is phenomenal,” Taylor told Bartow. “It’s the second-best offensive line in the world behind only the Dallas Cowboys. They always bring in top-notch offensive linemen that create holes. They have a special tradition at running back. To be recruited to play running back for Wisconsin is an honor. It’s an honor that they want me.”
Albany, Army, Boston College and Temple have also offered Taylor, so it’s safe to say that Wisconsin was his biggest offer and it makes sense that he decided to commit to the Badgers — especially from a running back’s perspective. He obviously knows the Badgers’ history at the position and how it all stems from a big-time offensive line. Perhaps it’s a bit of hyperbole to say the Badgers’ offensive line is right behind the Cowboys’, but if there was a college-to-pro comparison, that would be a good one.
According to 247Sports, Taylor is the No. 25 running back in the 2017 class as well as the No. 8 player from the state of New Jersey — one of the more talent-rich states in college football recruiting.
Taylor is 5-foot-11, 211 pounds — so he has that stout, Wisconsin running back look already going for him — and he runs an extremely fast 4.42 40 yard dash, according to his HUDL account.
Though Taylor can be a “bowling ball” in between the tackles — meaning he runs low to the ground, picks up his knees and makes defenders bounce off him — he does have above average footwork and his speed really shows up in the open field. He can make defenders miss and is a pure home run hitter.
Simply put, he’s a Wisconsin running back through and through.