After Friday night’s game against Arizona, Colorado will have faced the three out of the top four running backs in the conference in JJ Taylor, ASU’s Eno Benjamin, and Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson.
Standing at 5’6, 184 lbs., Taylor is a much different type of back than Benjamin (5-10, 201), and is smaller in stature than Jefferson (5-10, 211). The noticeable difference between the three has been something that’s stood out to the defense on film.
“Benjamin is a make you miss kind of guy - I think he’s top in the nation in missed tackles,” Linebacker Nate Landman said. “Both [Jefferson] and JJ Taylor are physical guys, Taylor I think is a little quicker and doesn’t have the same breakout speed, but he’ll hit the hole.”
So what makes him so special, one might ask? In addition to being quicker instinctually, Taylor uses his smaller size to his advantage in creating space to evade would be tacklers and squeeze through smaller holes in the defense.
“He can make these jump cuts in the hole where he can get [to a spot] and jump all the way to another spot and you’re like how did he get all the way over there,” MacIntyre said.
“They’re utilizing him well getting to the edge on some plays where they’ll get wide splits and then they’ll pull the guards and he can hit any [of the holes] from backside to frontside which allows him to use his vision.”
Because Taylor is harder to grasp and get to the ground, it’ll be more important than ever that Colorado is able to tackle him at first contact.
Unlike last year where the defense gave up a pedestrian 208 yards rushing yards a game, this season they’re holding opponents to under 150 yards on the ground.
However, despite doing a good job of containing the conference’s top two leading rushers individually, this week they’ll face a new type of challenge having to slow down not just Taylor but assuming he’s healthy Gary Brightwell, and possibly Khalil Tate.
Mentioning Khalil Tate’s name around Buffs fans is an excellent way to instantly strike fear into them - and for good reason. Last year at Folsom Field, Tate broke an FBS quarterback rushing record running for 428 yards on the ground and four touchdowns after replacing an injured Brandon Dawkins on the game’s first drive. However since suffering a high ankle sprain against Houston in Week 2, Tate hasn’t had the same speed or mobility that allowed him to make countless highlight reel runs a season ago.
No matter what, CU’s defense will be tasked with stopping the most explosive rushing attack in the conference, which includes a running back unlike any they’ve faced so far. That in of itself should be challenging enough for this team. Limiting his big play ability on the ground will exponentially increase their chances of victory on a late fall evening in a wonky Arizona Stadium atmosphere.