Taking a closer look at Wisconsin 2016 commit A.J. Taylor - a wide receiver from Kansas City, Mo.

Taking a closer look at the incoming members of the 2016 recruiting class, BadgerNation profiles Kansas City (MO) Rockhurst wide receiver A.J. Taylor

A.J. Taylor

Wide Receiver

Commitment Date: 8/1/15

Commitment in the Class: 15th


Accolades: Rated the No.1 athlete in Missouri and No.32 in the country ... selected for 2016 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl ... first-team all-state running back by Missouri Football Coaches Association and Missouri media as a senior, rushing for 1,721 yards and 16 touchdowns ... also recorded 338 receiving yards and 5 TD catches ... finished senior season with 2,560 all-purpose yards and 22 total TDs ... second-team all-state as a junior, helping the school to a 12-2 record and state runner-up finish in Class 6 as a junior ... for his career, totaled 2,828 rushing yards (7.6 ypc) and 29 TDs, along with 609 receiving yards and 8 TD catches.

Recruiting Story: Playing at a high school known for producing Division 1 talent, Taylor showed he had what it took to be the next big recruit out of Rockhurst. Averaging almost nine yards per touch as a tailback and returner his sophomore year, Taylor ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and had a 35-inch vertical. He entered his junior year as one of the best running backs in his region, regardless of class, and became a bigger threat by starting to line up at slot receiver and outside linebacker. That was enough to push Kansas State to become Taylor’s first scholarship offer in October 2014 following an unofficial visit.

His next offer came two months later from Missouri, a big one by his family standards. The Tigers were the family school for Taylor growing up. His mom went to Mizzou, his uncle was a big Tigers fan and Taylor liked how they “construct athletes.” Even though he liked the Tigers growing up, Taylor always said he was keeping an open mind in his recruitment.

Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Nebraska and Northwestern followed with offers by March 2015 and each school saw him as something different: some as a tailback, some as a slot receiver and some – like Missouri - as both. He remained open and had no school sticking out as a leader.

Wanting to take the time to visit the schools that had offered him, Taylor went to Northwestern on a Saturday and decided to hit Wisconsin a day later, followed by Illinois and Notre Dame. It was on his visit to Madison that he picked up his Badgers offer from head coach Paul Chryst. It turned out to be the favorite stop of the trip due to the “beautiful” campus, the “warm and welcoming” staff and his conversation with Chryst.

“(Chryst) told me that when I'm playing football, they want me to be a great athlete, in school to be a great student, and in social life to be a great friend,” Taylor said after the visit. “That stood out to me and hit home with me.”

“Wisconsin is definitely up there,” he admitted. “I can say I really like a lot of stuff about them. They have a lot of things I'm looking for in a college. They have a good program set up for after you graduate. It's a strong academic spot. It's a strong football program. I came out of the trip with no negatives about them. Everything was positive.”
A month later, Taylor returned to Wisconsin for a more extensive visit before the spring game. He got academic presentations and talked to receivers coach Ted Gilmore about how he would be integrated into the offense. The visit put the Badgers high on his list.

After getting new offers from Louisville, Maryland and Vanderbilt, Taylor announced in May 2015 he would be taking visits to Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Missouri over the summer and announce his decision on August 1. While he didn’t visit the Badgers’ campus again, UW’s staff made sure they made it down to his high school to show their desire to have him in the program.

Taylor made his trips – even getting a solo junior day at Missouri – but kept coming back to the fact that he couldn’t find one thing wrong with the Badgers and the program Chryst was putting together. Before publicly announcing his decision (one that got some national press due to announcing via a customized Monopoly game), Taylor gave his commitment to the Badgers.

Why Wisconsin? “I remember going the first time I really had no expectations of what Wisconsin would be like. I heard it was a very liberal town and little weird, but when I got up there it was so much different. It seemed like a very accepting place and everybody was outside walking around. You could tell it was a safe environment and wherever you looked there was someone walking, no matter how cold it was. The place has a pretty good atmosphere. I think that was one of the big things I really got out of it that I didn’t expect going into it.

“If we are talking about the football itself, I really liked their facilities. I didn’t think that they would have that nice of facilities and it would be that big and nice, but it was. I think that was a pretty cool thing that I got out of it too.”

Scouting Report: First and foremost, Wisconsin is getting a high-quality student-athlete from a great family. That can never be ignored, and though not a predictor of success, it can only help.

Taylor doesn't have super top-end speed but does possess great acceleration and burst in short spaces. He also isn't the biggest offensive weapon you will find, but he is compact and built very solidly. Strength shouldn't be an issue, especially after a few years in the strength and conditioning program.

He'll begin as a receiver in Madison, and since he lacks height and length, I would imagine he plays more in the slot. In that role he could have more of the field to play with, play in space, make people miss and let those skills shine through. Those are his best assets. He's a natural at catching the ball with his hands, and snatching it out of the air, an underrated skill in today's game. – Scout’s Derek Young

BadgerNation Prediction: Wisconsin desires two kinds of wide receivers in its offense – one who can spread the field with the speed and another who can have a matchup advantage with his height. The Badgers see Taylor as that separation option who can make plays in the open field, which is why UW will likely start him at Alex Erickson’s old “Z” position. Taylor’s talent is versatile, as he did the same things at the Semper Fi bowl at tailback, showing burst, impeccable vision, ability to stop and change direction on a dime and be a total package. He was easily the best running back there. Taylor is an aggressive runner who has good lateral movements and elusiveness, making him a natural athlete in UW’s offense.

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