A.J. Taylor emerging as another big-play threat for Badgers

Wisconsin Badgers junior wide receiver A.J. Taylor is off to a hot start in 2018.

MADISON, Wis.  — Wisconsin receiver A.J. Taylor has the athleticism and smarts to singlehandedly dominate a secondary.

The junior is pretty good at catching balls with two hands, too.

Just what opposing defenses don’t need: another player on the sixth-ranked Badgers named Taylor capable of making big plays.

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Through two games, A.J. Taylor has made for a pretty good offensive tandem with Jonathan Taylor, the FBS’ leading rusher.

“What I see in A.J. is that he is an unbelievable worker,” coach Paul Chryst said.

For the receiver, it’s about getting past the stage of just trying to be sure he’s doing the right things.

“He’s now in his third year and is concentrating on playing the game more than early in your career,” Chryst said.

A.J. Taylor has emerged into a big-play threat over the first two games, stepping up at a time when the receiving corps was thinned by the suspensions of Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis.

Last week, Taylor had five catches for a career-high 134 yards and a touchdown in a 45-14 win over New Mexico. His 10-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter was tough, with a defensive back in tight coverage when Taylor jumped in the end zone to haul in a high pass from Alex Hornibrook.

Taylor is also starting to make one-handed catches look easy.

In the first quarter against the Lobos, Taylor connected with Hornibrook for a 28-yard reception after reaching out down the left sideline for a pass with his left arm while the defensive back had his hand on Taylor’s right shoulder.

“To be honest with you, I wasn’t really thinking. I saw the ball, I thought it was going to be a little further than it was,” Taylor recounted after the game. “It was the only hand I had and decided to go for it and it ended up working out.”

It looked similar to a touchdown catch in the Orange Bowl last year, when Taylor reached out with his left arm for a pass while backpedaling in the end zone with a defender in his face. Taylor secured the ball with his left arm before cradling it back to his body.

“Yeah, I don’t even know what happened in the Orange Bowl. I think that was God,” he said.

Taylor credits his recent play to being more focused from play to play. Not worrying about a ball that may have bounced off his hands on the previous play, and not dwelling on a tough catch he may have made in the last series. It’s a habit that he said has carried over from practice.

“It’s about when opportunities come your way, can you cash in on them? … I don’t think suddenly A.J. did something remarkably different,” Chryst said. “That’s my point. He’s playing and when it comes his way, he’s made plays.”