J.J. Taylor carried the ball 18 times for 168 yards during Arizona’s 47-28 victory over Hawaii, but Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has always carried high expectations for the freshman.
“I really wasn’t surprised at all with him,” Rodriguez said. “We were going to run with him anyway. Once Nick got hurt, he obviously was the guy. He’s a tough competitive player who has a lot of shiftiness to his game.”
Nick Wilson exited the game early in the first half with an ankle injury, and, with the dismissal of Orlando Bradford from the program earlier in the week, the stage was set for Taylor to shine as the starter.
“I think he’s one of the few guys who has matured beyond his years for this level of football,” he said. “We’re really proud of him and we needed him on the field.
"When you have your number one back go out, it opens up more opportunities and J.J. did and will continue to have those opportunities moving forward to play a lot.”
Listed at 5”6 and 170 pounds, Taylor brings poise and break out speed, which is something Rodriguez applauds regarding the undersized back.
“He’s short but not small,” Rodriguez said. “When you look at his build he’s put together really well. He’s really strong and has the ability to make things happen in the open field. He was a tremendous high school player as well.
“Sometimes we get caught up in the measurable side of things, but you’ve got to have a certain size, especially if you’re the big guys. We’re too small in a lot of areas, but when I look at a player who was really good in high school, I expect that to transfer over to our program and J.J. is that.”
Taylor caught the eyes of several in the third quarter, scoring on a 61-yard touchdown pass using athleticism and juking capabilities to escape defender after defender.
“It was fun,” Taylor said. “It was a lot of fun actually.”
In essence, the freshman is determined to see the field much more moving forward.
“Everybody has their own opinion on things, but I’m ready to go out there every play,” he said. “You can do what you want as a player if you put your mind to it, and that’s what I choose to do. If the coaches trust me to carry the ball 30 times a game, I can.”