Crank the hype machine on Arizona RB J.J. Taylor - Tucson News Now

Crank the hype machine on Arizona RB J.J. Taylor

J.J. Taylor runs against Hawaii. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics) J.J. Taylor runs against Hawaii. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said the words I didn't want to hear.

"Hell," he said, "it's one game."

No, no, no, a billion-million times no.

RichRod, peppered with questions about J.J. Taylor in his weekly Monday press conference, was trying to pump the brakes on the hype train about his true freshman running back -- The Jolt? Circle Button? The Tornado? -- but let's go ahead and order full steam ahead.

You saw it.

It was just one game. But one heck of a promising game.

The spinning, the cutting, the darting, the speeding on 18 carries for 168 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown, Saturday night against Hawaii. Yeah, the Rainbow Warriors are one of the worst teams in the country, but Taylor's moves seemed like they would play up against USC or Stanford or the Cleveland Browns or this week's opponent, No. 9 Washington, which very well might have the best defense in the Pac-12.

Taylor shrugs about all the buzz this week.

"I guess," he said. "I've seen it on my Twitter feed, but I don't look at most of it."

See, he's a humble kid and -- since this isn't going to go to his head -- let's crank the excitement volume to 11.

"He has probably learned as quickly as any true freshman I have ever had, and I have had some really good ones," Rodriguez said.

"The whole staff is super excited about J.J. Taylor," said Arizona co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith.

"I think he's frickin' awesome," Washington co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said in the Seattle Times. "You watch that guy, the way he can get his foot in the ground and get vertical -- it's like, wow."

Yeah. Wow.

Getting to see more of J.J. Taylor is the most intriguing idea I've heard since taco trucks on every corner.

In the past 25 years, Arizona has had fast guys like Chuck Levy and Trung Canidate, grinders with great vision who could run all day like Ka'Deem Carey, and plenty other legit Pac-12 talent, including the injured junior that Taylor replaced Saturday night, Nick Wilson.

But it's been a while since the last time the Wildcats really had anyone of Taylor's style. Ontiwaun Carter in the early 1990s? Fans with long memories will remember the tantalizing spins and skill of Errol Sapp in 1989, before he flunked out. All-Pac-10 back David Adams in the mid-1980s?

That could work. Taylor is listed as 5-foot-6 and 170 pounds, the same as Adams as a senior in 1986.

"He's the smallest tailback in history," UA coach Larry Smith joked back then.

Cal coach Joe Kapp added: "He isn't small; he's just good."

Funny. That's about what RichRod said about Taylor.

"He's not small. He's put together," Rodriguez said.

"I never really worried too much about size. We're not trying to have him dunk a basketball or anything like that. He's just got to run and catch and block."

From just about the first day of camp, coaches and teammates raved about Taylor's ability. Best feet on the team, everyone said. Also tough. And smart. Dedicated. So the comparisons to Adams get closer all the time.

The difference is that we look back at Adams and know he did his work as a three-year starter.

Taylor is just getting started.

"Let's not anoint him and put too much pressure on a guy and expect him to get 150 yards against every team," Rodriguez said.

Fair enough. But boring.

Arizona is 2-1 but hasn't looked great in beating Grambling State and Hawaii. This might merely be a placeholder season for the Wildcats until a defensive reset takes hold and recruiting efforts mature.

Caution: The next five games could test your Wildcats' resolve: Washington, at Utah, USC, Stanford, at Washington State.

Amid this potential skid, Arizona football might need some fun, some jazz.

J.J. Taylor and RichRod's Late Night Band.

There is no word right now when Wilson will be back. He spent the second half of Saturday night's game with his left foot in a walking boot after exiting the game following Arizona's first possession.

Either way, more J.J., please.

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