MADISON, Wis. — Running back Jonathan Taylor showed off his potential in preseason camp for No. 10 Wisconsin.
Two games into his college career, he looks more like a veteran than a freshman.
Taylor rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start in a 31-14 win in Week 2 over Florida Atlantic, becoming the fourth freshman in program history to rush for 200 yards in a game.
Fullback Austin Ramesh said Taylor’s emergence during a simulation game in fall camp laid the groundwork for his spectacular debut.
“Every year it seems like we’ve got a few freshmen coming in who can make an impact. But what he’s done, it’s impressive,” the senior said of Taylor, who ran for 87 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the season opener.
“Having been in those shoes, trying to come in and play big-time football is quite the transition from high school,” Ramesh said. “He definitely stepped up and realized he could be a contributor this year.”
He has contributed a couple big plays already.
Taylor followed a 64-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the first quarter against Florida Atlantic with a highlight-reel, 29-yarder less than four minutes later. He bowled over three would-be tacklers on that play.
Wisconsin (2-0) hits the road for the first time this weekend with a trip to Provo, Utah for a game against BYU. Taylor is again listed as a co-starter on the depth chart at running back along with junior Chris James and sophomore Bradrick Shaw, who missed the last game with a right leg injury.
“We like Bradrick and I thought Chris took some steps forward in certain areas,” coach Paul Chryst said. “When you see Jonathan come in and do what he’s doing, I think it gives us depth, and I think he’s capable of being a good football player for us.”
Taylor leads all FBS true freshmen in rushing at 155.0 yards per game. Receiver Jazz Peavy said Taylor’s emergence could benefit the Badgers’ passing game, too.
“He’s been very impressive coming in as a true freshman, to be able to make explosive plays like that down the field and break tackles and score touchdowns,” Peavy said. “That’s definitely huge and that’s something defenses are going to have to account for and it opens it up for us on the outside.”
Chryst said Taylor’s big plays have made an impact on his teammates in other ways.
“Big plays, you love getting them. But big plays happen when everyone executes together whether it’s a run or a pass,” Chryst said. “Everyone understands you’ve got to play through the whistle and then you’ve got to do your job. If we all do that, then big plays are the byproduct of everyone doing the right thing.”
NOTES: DE Chikwe Obasih (left leg), a key member of the defensive line rotation, will miss a second straight game. … Shaw was questionable for a second straight week. … Starting OGs Beau Benzschawel (right leg) and Jon Dietzen (right leg) were also listed as questionable on the injury report.