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Wisconsin spring game 2015: Players, positions to watch

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Gone are Melvin Gordon, Rob Havenstein, the Trotters and Derek Landisch. Now, the Badgers must reload at some key positions.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten's last spring game of 2015 kicks off Saturday at 3 p.m. CT, as the Wisconsin Badgers will split their squad up at Camp Randall Stadium for the annual end-of-spring showcase.

The spring game is just that: a game in late April, months before any significant takeaways should be adopted from watching the Badgers practice. But it's football, and after a remarkable run by the men's basketball team, it's time to see what the football squad has in mind for keeping Wisconsin atop the national college sports picture.

Here are the players and storyline to watch at Saturday's spring game.

Tanner McEvoy, safety and(?) receiver

McEvoy has made plays on both sides of the ball this spring -- a promising development after he began the spring primarily on defense. He's played well at safety and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has said he likes McEvoy opposite senior Michael Caputo.

However, if the athletic McEvoy can continue to progress as a wide receiver -- running routes and adjusting to catching passes after throwing them as a quarterback last season -- he could contend with juniors Rob Wheelwright and Reggie Love and sophomore Jazz Peavy as a much-needed complement to senior wide receiver Alex Erickson.

McEvoy by no means is Charles Woodson, but he drew praise from Caputo last week for being the most football savvy player he's played with.

"He can definitely play receiver, quarterback, safety, corner, wherever you want to put him. He's a football player."

The injury-tested offensive line

The Badgers have to replace three starters from 2013 -- guards Dallas Lewallen and Kyle Costigan, and right tackle Rob Havenstein -- who helped pave the way for the likes of Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement.

Senior Ray Ball stepped up during the Outback Bowl and this spring at left guard, but the right side of the line, notably right tackle, is less stable than recent years. Sophomore Hayden Biegel has received snaps with the first team for most of spring, with junior Walker Williams also fighting for that spot. Redshirt freshman Michael Deiter started at right guard and seems to be in position to retain it heading into summer camp.

Injuries have decimated the continuity on the line, however. Junior center Dan Voltz is out with an ankle injury, forcing Dieter back to center, a role he held last spring. Williams has worked at right and left guard over the last few weeks, the latter since Ball was injured during Wednesday's practice. Ball's injury forced redshirt freshman Beau Benzschawel -- who was getting reps at right tackle with Williams at guard -- to move to right guard.

There are many moving pieces right now, but those who step up with positive reps against Aranda's aggressive defense Saturday could set themselves up for positive momentum into the fall.

The battle for No. 2 running back

Clement is ready to be the workhorse for this team. Who will back up and complement the power and agility of Clement is up for grabs.

Junior Dare Ogunbowale made strides last season after converting from cornerback, showcasing a knack for finding solid yardage in garbage time. Redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal dealt with a wrist injury last season, but running backs coach John Settle has said the Maryland native has stepped up to compete for the back-up spot.

Add in speedy JUCO transfer Serge Trezy, and there's some solid competition for the No. 2 running back -- a position that hasn't been unstable since before the 2010 season.

Battling back-up quarterbacks

Chryst named senior quarterback Joel Stave the starter from the onset of spring practice. That's not up for debate.

Who will back-up the former walk-on is still up for grabs. Junior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman D.J. Gillins have mostly worked with the second-team offenses during the spring, according to our B5Q writers and the media who have watched practices.

Both have looked good during the spring. B5Q labeled Houston as its X-Factor during our spring football preview, and the media has noted his positive days as well.

Gillins is entering his second offensive system in two years, but has played well while adjusting to the Badgers' pro-style system. Last Sunday, Gillins impressed during a scrimmage session -- showcasing his passing ability and mobility against a sound Badgers defense. Look to see who stands out against Aranda's first-team defense.

Behind Houston and Gillins are true freshmen (and early enrollees) Alex Hornibrook and Austin Kafentzis. Hornibrook has impressed at times during camp, and the highly touted Kafentzis has earned some reps here and there.

Emerging inside linebackers T.J. Edwards and Leon Jacobs

The Badgers lost starters Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch. A potent duo, the pair combined for 177 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in 2014. After also losing key reserve Michael Trotter, the Badgers are left with only the athletic Jacobs as an inside linebacker with notable playing time (see: Illinois game from 2014, where he recorded 12 tackles).

Enter redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards. Edwards showcased some flashes during fall camp last year, but ultimately redshirted. This spring, Edwards has played well and many have noticed.

What's more promising is how Aranda noted Edwards' "negative plays" have reduced over the spring.

Watch how the two young linebackers attack the opposing offense on Saturday. If they continue to progress, they could form -- along with outside linebackers Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel -- one of the most athletic sets of linebackers Wisconsin's seen in some time.