Jonathan Taylor, the 24th-ranked running back in the class, has 986 yards. He wasn't offered by any of those schools, but that doesn't mean they — or dozens of other teams — missed the boat.
Harris, Akers and Carr may prove to be elite players, Heisman contenders and high NFL draft picks, but Taylor has been the best freshman running back in college football and one of the best in the nation overall. And while he was a talented three-star recruit from a small New Jersey school with a handful of Power Five offers, finding the perfect fit at Wisconsin made the difference.
"He was perfect fit for the Wisconsin offense for what they want to do running downhill and between the tackles," 247Sports national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn told HERO Sports. "He was so big and strong that you weren't going to tackle him high because his legs were so strong [or] low because he was so thick in the lower body was also going to be an issue."
Dohn, who watched Taylor get "bottled up" for Salem High School in the 2016 New Jersey state championship game, remembers a player who was "unbelievable" if he had a hole and the play was blocked.
"Between the tackles runner with good vision and sneaky shiftiness with thick legs that makes it tough to arm tackle," he wrote in Taylor's scouting report. "Gets through the line of scrimmage and demonstrates good burst. He is quick with his feet and being able to change direction, cut and be able to get up the field.
"Runs with a good pad level, is balanced and possesses good body control. He locates the hole well and is patient waiting for plays to develop. Taylor needs to develop top-end speed when he gets to the second level."
Taylor, the all-time leading rusher in state history, did have the top-end straight-line speed at the Nike New Jersey Opening Regional on May 1, 2016, where he ran a 4.42-yard 40-yard dash, the fastest among participants. He picked Rutgers over Harvard and others later day. Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech offered him a week later and Wisconsin offered at the end of the month.
He visited Madison for the Ohio State game on Oct. 15, 2016, decommitted from Rutgers on Oct. 29 and committed to the Badgers on Nov. 1, a decision four years in the making. Long before Taylor was shattering records at Salem, he was watching Corey Clement do the same 20 miles up the road in Glassboro.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy lives right down the road from me. This is so crazy,’” Taylor recalled of Clement, a former four-star recruit who ran for over 3,000 yards at Wisconsin from 2013-16. “I’m like, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ So [Clement] kind of jump-started me getting started with the game of football.”
Clement may have jump-started his career but the immediate production has prompted comparisons to Ron Dayne, another New Jersey product who rushed for 2,109 yards as a true freshman in 2016.
"If anybody is going to sit there and say they knew this was coming, give me a break," Dohn said. "What [he's doing], true freshman don't do a ton. I figured he'd have success at some point in his career. I didn't know how soon that success would be. How do you know? How do you know how quickly he would adapt?"
Dohn admits he hasn't watched undefeated Wisconsin enough this season to know how Taylor has racked up nearly 1,000 yards. But he's not stunned, instead reiterating the "brilliance" of going somewhere "he knew he would fit" and "they knew he would fit."
"We saw a guy that we really liked," Badgers' head coach Paul Chryst told HERO Sports. "Certainly the first part is there's a good football player you notice on film. Then when you get to know him, you truly like him, a ton. He's got a ton of substance to him. He's a fun person to be around. He has energy. He wants to be the best player he can be.
"We saw that early and as recruiting goes on you get to know that. We were really excited when he made his decision and more so when you're with him every day. He's fun to be around."
Of course Taylor is fun to be around when he's averaging 7.8 yards per carry and has 468 yards in their last two Big Ten games. He ranks sixth nationally in total rushing yards and first among FBS true freshmen, more than 200 yards ahead of Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins.
COMPARE: Jonathan Taylor vs. J.K. Dobbins
"I don't want to sit there and say schools missed the boat on him," says Dohn. "He had a deep offer list. It wasn't like Wisconsin came in and it was like, 'My goodness.' "
And that's no slight to Wisconsin or Taylor. Many teams are undoubtedly wishing they had Taylor right now, but none would've been a better fit for the now-Heisman contender.