Previewing the 2014 Wisconsin spring game

Grey Satterfield

The Badgers will close the spring with a much awaited look at a faster defense and a few open spots on offense.

The annual Wisconsin spring game is Saturday at 3 p.m. The game takes place at Camp Randall Stadium and is benefitting the Wisconsin School of Education. The $5 cost of entry is entirely donated to the School of Education. The split-squad game will pit the Cardinal against the White.

What should I expect?

The spring game is the last of the Badgers' 15 allotted spring practices by the NCAA. The team will play two halfs; the first consisting of game-like play, but with very little contact, according to head coach Gary Andersen. The second will feature two quarters that will be like a real game with full contact. The teams will not punt; instead, a "punt" will result in the ball being placed 35 yards downfield and the other team will take over on offense.

Where can I watch the game?

Badger fans can find the game televised live on the Big Ten Network and on the BTN2Go app.

Are there any position battles I should pay special attention to on offense?

The biggest position battle was at quarterback, but with Joel Stave out for the spring game because of lingering shoulder issues, the first-team reps will belong to Tanner McEvoy. The position battle still is interesting, though. McEvoy, who played safety last year, will be getting his first crack at commanding the offense and showing his skills. Aside from McEvoy, Bart Houston and early enrollee D.J. Gillins will also have the opportunity to showcase their abilities. Houston has a very strong, albeit occasionally erratic, arm, and Gillins is a dual-threat quarterback who has impressed in his early playing time.

For most of spring, Rob Havenstein, Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen (all projected starters) have sat out. This has given valuable first-team reps to Ray Ball and early enrollee Michael Deiter. Gary Andersen has been very impressed with Deiter's skill set and maturity. Look for Ball and Deiter as they go up against the first team-defense in a game setting. They both could challenge for a starting spot this season.

As has been chronicled throughout the spring, the wide receivers have been hampered by injuries. Jordan Fredrick, Alex Erickson and Connor Cummins are not expected to play. Reggie Love and Rob Wheelwright, who both just returned to practice this week, may only see limited action on Saturday. This provides a window of opportunity for guys like Jazz Peavy and Lance Baretz to display their talents. Although they may not be battling for starting positions, they are fighting for reps this summer when five incoming freshmen are expected to make an instant impact. Watch speedster Kenzel Doe and his maturation from last year to this year. He may be this year's break-out wide receiver as the team looks to replace Jared Abbrederis.

How about defense?

On the defensive line, Chikwe Obasih has made huge strides from last year. Obasih started the spring as a third-string defensive end, but has since worked his way onto the first-team defense. He is still clashing with Alec James, Jake Keefer and James Adeyanju for that position. Look for one of those players to step up and make an impact.

The linebacking group looks to be solidified with Joe Schobert and Derek Landisch playing outside linebacker and the Trotter twins, Michael and Marcus, starting at inside linebacker. Jesse Hayes, Leon Jacobs and Vince Biegel are still battling for playing time. Look for different packages at linebacker, as Dave Aranda has shown a variety of linebacker groupings and schemes.

The final battle to watch on defense is at safety, where Mike Caputo has moved back to from linebacker. Who will play along side him is a different story. Peniel Jean has practiced with the first-team defense, while Leo Musso has been held out of practice. Look for early enrollee Austin Hudson from Tampa, Fla., to get playing time as well.

Who is going to be the kicker?

That is a great question. Neither Jack Russell nor Andrew Endicott has impressed so far in camp. Russell was shaky at best last year after replacing the inconsistent Kyle French. Endicott handled kickoffs last season and did a phenomenal job. He features a powerful leg, but also struggles with accuracy. It will be interesting to see if one outperforms the other. Freshman Rafeal Gaglianone can not come soon enough.

Who could be the surprise player of the spring game?

Look for Obasih to cause havoc in the backfield. All spring, the defensive end has found ways to get to the quarterback quickly. Many fans will be happy to see the Badgers get pressure in the backfield after struggling to find ways to get their defensive linemen into opposing backfields last year.

Another player who could catch viewers off guard is Devin Gaulden. Gaulden saw time early in his playing career and was impressive, but missed all of last year due to injury. Gaulden has worked extremely hard to get back on the field, and looks to have solidified his spot as the nickel cornerback. Fans will love to see that he has fully recovered and continues to show he has not lost the form he showed in years past.

What will I see that will surprise me?

The Badger offense will be the same. They will run, run, run and run again until the opposing defense begs for mercy. On the defensive side, the squad seems to be much faster than last year. Last year's team ranked among the top in the Big Ten when it came to total defense. Their problem was not being able to force takeaways. With this year's squad quicker and a bit more athletic, look for Wisconsin to showcase the ability to make plays and force more turnovers. The defense has also shown a 3-3-5 package in practice this week, which is a different look than fans are accustomed to.

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