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April 19, 2013

Spring game: 5 players to watch





MADISON - The Wisconsin Badgers are set to play their spring game in less than 24 hours. They'll wrap up their spring camp starting at 4 p.m. in Camp Randall Stadium, and plenty of players will be clamoring to catch their coaches' eyes one more time before they begin their summer conditioning.

And if you'll be in the stadium or watching the game on TV, I've picked out five players who you should keep an eye on as the spring game moves along. A good performance on Saturday could mean you'll see a lot more of them when the regular season rolls around this fall.

Melvin Gordon, RB

Gordon's a pretty obvious choice, given his playmaking ability. But Gordon will be taking a lot of snaps on Saturday, since both James White and Jeffrey Lewis will sit out. Gordon has looked great at times this spring, and my bet is that the eyes of most fans will be glued on Gordon for most of the game. He can spring a big play whenever he gets on the field, but it will be interesting to see what he can do when he gets most of his snaps as the primary tailback.

Joe Schobert, OLB

Schobert really came on strong towards the end of spring camp, and the coaches took notice. He was working with the first team with Jesse Hayes at outside linebacker, and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said he liked how fluid Schobert is on the field. He has a great build for the position, but only played in a handful of games last season as a true freshman. This will be one of the first few times that Schobert will get to show everyone what he can do on the edge, and a strong performance in the spring game could put him in a great position to compete for a starting spot in fall camp.

A.J. Jordan, WR

The Badgers are very short-staffed at wide receiver, other than Jared Abbrederis. Abbrederis won't play on Saturday, so Jordan and the other receivers will have the field to themselves. I think Jordan has come a long way this spring: he's making solid catches now instead of dropping them like some of the other receivers. It speaks to their lack of depth that that's a major compliment, but a strong performance from Jordan could help him establish himself along with Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe as legitimate receiving options.

Dallas Lewallen, OL

The Badgers are very thin on the offensive line this spring, and we already thinner than they'd like to be in terms of scholarship linemen. Ryan Groy won't play on Saturday, so Lewallen will probably alternate between playing at left tackle and left guard. Tyler Marz will also probably get some reps with the first team at left tackle, but I think Lewallen has a better chance of seeing the field this fall as of right now. Whether that's at guard or tackle I'm not sure, but the Badgers would like to get him involved somewhere.

Darius Hillary, CB

Hillary and will almost definitely start at cornerback for the Badgers this fall, along with Peniel Jean. They're part of an inexperienced secondary as a whole, since Dezmen Southward is the only returning starter. But Jean and Hillary have both seen the field a lot during their careers, and I think Hillary grew a lot as a defender last season. He has decent size to play the kind of man coverage the Badgers want to use this season, and he's looked good so far this spring. But at the same time Hillary will be just a sophomore this season, and the Badgers need him and the others to play well for their defense to be successful.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.


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