Wisconsin Football: Top Five Big Ten Running Backs

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(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /
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Wisconsin Football - Jonathan Taylor
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#1 – Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Jonathan Taylor came out of nowhere last season and took the Big Ten, and the nation, by storm.

Going into 2017, few expected him to play a prominent role for the Badgers as a true freshman. Wisconsin was returning a number of reliable ball-carriers from the past season. When he arrived on campus as a relatively under-recruited prospect, the assumption was that he would take a redshirt year.

Taylor had other plans, as he dominated fall practices and forced Paul Chryst to find a way to get him touches. That set the stage for a historic season for the freshman back from New Jersey.

Once the season started, he seized the starting running back position immediately and never looked back. Taylor rushed for 100 yards or more in 10 of 14 games, with three 200 yard performances. When all was said and done, he had 1,977 rushing yards to his name, breaking Adrian Peterson’s freshman FBS record.

Here’s a sample of the lofty accolades Taylor earned in 2017:

  • Big Ten Freshman of the Year
  • First-team All-Big Ten
  • Second-team All-America
  • Maxwell Award/Walter Camp Player of the Year Award seminfinalist
  • Doak Walker Award finalist.

Taylor also finished sixth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy while nearly leading the Badgers to the College Football Playoff.

Wisconsin fans have very high expectations for the offense this season, and that all starts with Taylor. While he has obviously already established himself as a devastating threat on the ground, the coaching staff is hoping that he can take a step forward in the pass game, both as a receiver and blocker.

Taylor worked on both quite a bit in spring practices. If he can make those improvements to his game, it will take his potential and Wisconsin’s offense to a whole new level.

He will open the season behind only Stanford’s Bryce Love on most Heisman contender lists. Though it will be a very tall task to top the eye-popping numbers he put up in 2017, he is in a great position to do so.

Taylor will have the luxury of having arguably the nation’s best offensive line in front of him to open up holes. He should also be complimented by a dynamic passing game to take some of the offensive burden off his shoulders, led by an experienced quarterback in Alex Hornibrook and a talented receiving corps.

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All the pieces are there for Taylor to have another historic season, one that Wisconsin fans are hoping ends with him holding the Heisman Trophy and the Badgers with a spot in the College Football Playoff.