One of the most exciting things about Wisconsin Badgers football season is watching the freshmen contribute and develop throughout the year.
Through four games of the 2017 season, all victories for Wisconsin, we have already seen that there are a number of true and redshirt freshmen who will be significant contributors.
Each week, I will rank the top three based on their respective positive impacts on the game. The Week 5 freshman power rankings are as follows:
3. DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (redshirt freshman)
Loudermilk continues to be a cog in Wisconsin’s defensive line, finishing with 1 tackle and 0.5 sacks against Northwestern. While the numbers don’t stand out, Loudermilk has provided Jim Leonhard’s defensive line with some much-needed depth while defensive end Chikwe Obasih continues to recover from a leg injury. At 6’7’ and 306 pounds, the redshirt freshman is a mountain of a man and has the potential to become an important defensive contributor in 2017 and the coming years. Loudermilk popped up on the injury report this week, however, and is currently questionable for the Nebraska game with a leg injury.
2. WR Danny Davis (true freshman)
Davis continued his hot start to the season with 50 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats. The true freshman has emerged as one of quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s most reliable deep threats but his route running was also on display in this game. With Wisconsin clinging to a 14-10 lead about halfway through the third quarter, Davis ran a beautiful ten-yard out route that he turned into a 32-yard catch and run. On that same drive, Davis caught the first touchdown of his career on a five-yard strike from Hornibrook in the back of the end zone. Nebraska has been surprisingly good against the run this season, ranking 22nd in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game, so I expect the Badgers to test the Cornhuskers’ leaky secondary with deep shots to both Davis and sophomore Quintez Cephus.
1. RB Jonathan Taylor (true freshman)
The most impressive part of Taylor’s freshman campaign thus far is the fact he has yet to have a real clunker of a game. Even while finishing the Northwestern game with his lowest yardage output of the season (80 yards), Taylor was still able to rush for a respectable 4.2 yards per carry and score two touchdowns. It has been incredible to watch how consistent and dynamic the Salem, N.J. native has been through his first four collegiate games. He currently ranks 15th in the country in rushing yards with 518, even with the disadvantage of a bye week, and has added seven rushing touchdowns. Taylor has clearly seized control of a backfield that includes redshirt sophomore Bradrick Shaw and redshirt junior Chris James, and he should continue to be a bonafide stud for the rest of his freshman season and beyond.