The University of Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has been a victim of his own excellence.
After submitting one of the greatest true freshman seasons in the history of College Football, Taylor has followed up this season thus far with four performances that by any measure should be considered dynamite, however, as a result of his growing hype and Heisman expectations, his elite start to the season has widely been dismissed as routine.
Entering the bye week, Taylor sits second among all rushers in the nation with 628 yards in four games, an average that paces out to 157 yards per game. He’s also the most utilized rusher in the nation with 102 attempts.
Perhaps some of the comparatively lacking recognition stems from the recent touchdown drought Taylor’s gone through over the last two games. After beginning the year with five scores in two games, his goal line absence has been noticeable in his two games since without crossing into the end zone.
Part of the reason for his under-utilization deep in the red zone has been his propensity for the fumble, and his habit of doing so deep in opponent territory, which has led the Badgers to go with running back Taiwan Deal in those situations. Deal had two touchdowns against Brigham Young University.
Despite this, Taylor remains on track for an even better season than his rookie campaign. Through four games last season, Taylor had accounted for 518 yards on the ground, 110 yards less than his current total. This is also a yards per game average of almost 30 less than he currently holds.
His statistics clearly depict a back that is building on a strong start to his collegiate career, however, they don’t tell the whole story.
The Wisconsin offensive line, which in years past has seemingly been the infallible cornerstone of the Badger brand of Big Ten, smash-mouth football, is looking increasingly vulnerable. We haven’t seen as many explosive attempts from Taylor this season, and it looks like it is partly due to the lack of large holes being created for him by the interior linemen.
In the loss against BYU, Head Coach Paul Chryst spoke after the game about his decision to pull most the starting offensive linemen in favor of the second team for a drive in the middle of a tight game. He attributed the decision completely to the heat, saying he wanted to give them a break.
Taylor had trouble bursting through the line of scrimmage for large gains the entire game.
Now, these criticisms are like the man who complains because his golden shoes are too tight. Taylor’s record is still impeccable, and the offensive linemen are still likely one of the strongest units in the country. But if Taylor is pushing for an invitation to the Heisman this season, and a shot to take home the trophy, any blemish is fair game.