Jonathan Taylor was just a baby when Ron Dayne had his mythical 1999 college football season. That year, Dayne swept all before him as he scooped every major accolade including the prestigious Heisman Award. It capped a career that saw him leave the NCAA as the all time rushing yards leader (bowl game statistics included). Twenty years later, Taylor looks to be the next Wisconsin Badger running back to have dominated college football.
Not that Jonathan Taylor is any stranger to the record books himself.
The 4 star recruit (Rivals) out of Salem High School, New Jersey was establishing himself as a record breaker from a young age. As a high school senior, he set the New Jersey single season rushing record with 2,815 yards.
He carried that explosive form in to college football. After originally committing to Rutgers, he found a home in Wisconsin. With a heritage for high quality running backs, Jonathan Taylor couldn’t have found a better place for his talents.
The record breaking continued at Wisconsin. In the 2017 season, his first as a Badger, Taylor broke the All Time Freshman record previously held by Adrian Peterson. It was clear from early on that he was going to be an explosive talent. In just his second game, against Florida Atlantic, Taylor rushed for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. He would add another two 200+ yard games during the season, on his way to 1977 yards and 13 touchdowns. 2017 was capped off by being voted the Freshman of the Year and a consensus Freshman All-American.
2018 continued in a similar vein for Jonathan Taylor.
He added another four 200+ yard games and topped 300 yards in a dominant performance against Purdue. Taylor recorded just one game with under 100 rushing yards on his way to a 2194 yard season. It was a truly dominant season. His yardage lead the nation and he was rewarded with the Doak Award for the top running back in college football. The award is one of the many that Ron Dayne secured in that famous 1999 season.
With a combined 4171 rushing yards from his first two seasons as a Badger, Taylor shattered Dayne’s record for rushing yards through a sophomore season. It wasn’t even close! Only Taylor, Dayne and the legendary Herschel Walker have broke the 3500 yard mark in their first two seasons. He is in truly remarkable company.
Jonathan Taylor is a truly remarkable player.
His play contains all the attributes that you could want to find in an elite running back. He’s incredibly strong and powerful making him hard to bring down. Using his quick feet, he can make adjustments at the line of scrimmage and guide his way through a crowded line and in to the open field. His patience at the line is reminiscent of what Le’Veon Bell brings to his game. When he does get in to the open field, it’s goodnight for the opposition defence. With explosive speed you’ve got no chance of stopping him. Taylor was a track star at Salem High School and his speed from his days of running the 100 meters is evident on the football field.
In the video below you can see everything that makes Taylor such an incredible player. The play is a run play to the left. However, finding his route blocked, Taylor patiently waits for an opportunity to open to the right. He then uses his quick feet to change direction, find a hole, then use his explosive pace to get to the outside and in to the end zone for the touchdown.
What does 2019 hold for Jonathan Taylor?
The Wisconsin Badgers have always prided themselves on the outstanding performance of their offensive line. It’s one of the reasons why they’ve had so many outstanding running backs. During Taylor’s time as a Badger, this has been no different. He’s had a consistently strong line to run behind in his first two seasons.
For 2019, change is coming. Left guard Michael Dieter, right guard Beau Benzschawel and right tackle Dave Edwards all headed to the NFL in the draft and will have to be replaced. Thankfully for Taylor, the key cog in the offensive line returns. Center Tyler Biadasz will be one of the best linemen in the nation in 2019 and Taylor can look forward to getting behind him for another big season.
It’s been 20 years since Ron Dayne became the last Wisconsin Badger to win the Heisman Trophy. After winning the Freshman of the Year award in 2017, and the Doak Award in 2018, could Jonathan Taylor be the next in 2019?
Photo Credit: Rich Barnes – USA TODAY
All statistics from uwbadgers.com