A.J. Taylor left Camp Randall Stadium after practice this week, he noticed his bicycle had been towed.
He began to walk home when fellow freshman wide receiver on the University of Wisconsin football team Quintez Cephus passed him on his moped. For a moment, it appeared Cephus would stop and offer Taylor a ride home. At the last second, however, he sped away, leaving Taylor to trek the rest of the way back to his dormitory on foot.
Taylor told that story Tuesday as an example of how the freshman wide receiving group comprised of Cephus, Taylor and Kendric Pryor are “always joking around.”
On the field, though, they leave the laughs behind.
On the Badgers latest depth chart, Taylor and Cephus found themselves listed on the two-man deep spots behind starting wide receivers Jazz Peavy and Robert Wheelwright.
“It’s just showing me that I have something in store here. I have to become a young adult and actually grow up and take this thing seriously and really try to develop everyday and make this something I can come to and go hard at it to be the best I can be,” Cephus said.
Both recorded their first catches at the college level Saturday during No. 9 Wisconsin’s 54-10 win over Akron.
“There was a lot going on, but Saturday was a fun day,” Taylor said. “It was a great day.”
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Taylor caught two passes for 39 yards, including a 35-yard corner route that came less than a yard away from being recorded as his first collegiate touchdown. Cephus’ catch went for 10 yards and came on a 3rd and 7. He laid out for it and hauled it in with his arms outstretched near the UW sideline.
“It took a lot off my back, trying to figure out if I could play at this level,” Cephus said of his first catch. “It definitely helped me confidence-wise.”
These milestones are well deserved products of repetitions the two earned in training camp, where they impressed nearly every day.
Taylor said going through training camp was tough, but he knew how important camp was to laying the foundation for the Wisconsin offense.
Taylor’s goal was to avoid redshirting this year, but wouldn’t be upset if the coaching staff advised against that decision. He knew he’d have to accomplish that by working hard from the beginning of training camp.
Training camp proved to be a pivotal time for Taylor’s development. As a running back in high school, he had to learn the basics of wide receiver: how to line up and how many steps to take in a route. Now that the rudimentary elements of the position are second nature to him, he’s more relaxed on the field, he said.
“I can just go out there and have fun,” Taylor said.
Plus, he now has a support system in Cephus and Pryor.
“When I mess up, it’s like ‘It’s OK, I just messed up on that too,'” Taylor said. “It’s things like that. It just makes it fun.”
Wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore has been pleased with the development of the younger players in his unit.
“Sometimes, in recruiting, you think a young man physically has the ability to try to help and obviously what was going on with our position, the numbers were low anyway, which allowed them to get more reps,” Gilmore said. “But you never know how they’re going to pick up the things mentally and those guys have done a good job picking that up.”
As a result, Gilmore said, the coaching staff trusts placing Cephus and Taylor into significant situations.
According to Gilmore, the physical transition from high school to the college game is easier at receiver, than say lineman. Both Taylor and Cephus are lengthy, strong young men.
There’s still obviously a lot to work on too, he added.
“Getting them to look at the big picture [and] getting them to understand when this happens, you have to do this,” he said.