Coming off a 2018 season in which the offense didn’t live up to its potential, two of Wisconsin’s veteran playmakers are hoping for bigger things in 2019. Bucky’s 5th Quarter had the chance to speak one-on-one with senior wide receiver A.J. Taylor, and junior running back Garrett Groshek after practice Wednesday morning. Here’s what they had to say about the upcoming season, and more.
A.J. Taylor had, statistically, his best season as a Badger in 2018. He lead the team with 521 yards receiving and reeled in three touchdowns as well. After a strong spring, Taylor entered this fall as one of the top three receiving threats for an offense in need of a bounce back.
In speaking with Taylor, he feels as though this offseason has allowed him to improve on consistency, citing “I’ve been able to catch the tougher balls, but it has really been the easy ones that I had messed up on.” He believes that this improved consistency is because he has been working on “being more focused, watching the ball into the tuck, fundamental type things.” In addition to improving his fundamentals, he said “also blocking as well, I’ve gotten better technically there.”
Taylor has been dinged up the past few practices, but was out with his teammates today doing some formational work. While he did not participate with the individual or team portions of practice he said that this time off has been “good, and tough.” He admitted that nothing is “really wrong” and that he is fine right now, but that the staff is being cautious and deliberate with his return because of his experience.
He has been an ultimate teammate through the process saying “it’s been fun watching the guys, watching them compete.” Taylor also believes that during this injury or rest period he has been getting stronger, “taking care of [the injury] now instead of three weeks into the season.”
Taylor was also complimentary of junior quarterback Jack Coan. On what he sees in Coan from the wide receiver perspective Taylor said that he “trusts us more, which comes with chemistry and time.” Taylor also noted that with this trust “it’s now on us to go make a play for him.”
The Jack Coan-to-AJ Taylor connection is alive and well. The pair connected on a couple great throws during team drills today - showing some chemistry. Taylor has been reliable this spring. #Badgers— John Veldhuis (@JohnVeldhuis) April 26, 2019
Garrett Groshek was a dependable third down back last year for Wisconsin, called upon to protect the quarterback, be an escape valve in check down situations and run the ball to keep the defense honest. Hop forward to fall camp this year, and the tailback is being tasked with an expanded role so far in practice.
While chatting with Groshek, he said that he is not worried about what his specific role will be this season with a possible larger workload, but that “if the coaches ask, I’ll be ready.” While also admitting that “if 23 is in...usually it’s our best chance to win games.”
One new wrinkle that the offense has deployed is the use of Groshek and Jonathan Taylor, aka 23, on the field together. Groshek believes that he and Taylor “bring versatility, and defenses will have a tougher time knowing where the ball is going. Obviously it is a different look for a lot of teams that they aren’t quite sure what to expect yet, and that is something they will have to game plan for over the course of the season.”
Lots of Groshek and Taylor both in the backfield together today at practice. The defensive players we had the chance to speak with all highlighted how they present match up problems individually, and when they are on the field together. pic.twitter.com/BDH0kisCi6— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 8, 2019
Groshek had a busy off-season, to say the least. In June he got engaged, and a month before that Groshek had the opportunity to go and workout in Florida with some former Badgers in the NFL like two-time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon. On what he learned from that experience in Florida Goshek said “the work ethic those guys have, you can see why they are playing at that next level, just with how they come in every day and attack every single workout we went through.”
In addition to his growth over the offseason, Groskek pointed out the development in fall camp of redshirt freshman Nakia Watson.
Groshek said “he’s taken that next step. Early on in camp you could tell he was a little scatterbrained and frantic, but now he is starting to relax a little bit and starting to play some really good football, and show that he knows everything. Now he is starting to show it, and your starting to see the talent.”