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April 11, 2014
Spring Game: 5 players to watch
MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's spring game is set to kick off at 3 p.m. CST tomorrow. Whether you're going to the game or planning on watching it on TV (it's set to air on the Big Ten Network), here are five players I think you should keep an eye on during the game:
Tanner McEvoy, QB
Saturday's spring game will give McEvoy his best chance to show what he can do in Wisconsin's offense since he arrived on campus last fall. Joel Stave is out with a shoulder injury, so McEvoy will likely take all of the first team reps for the Cardinal squad.
McEvoy has shown some growth during Wisconsin's first few spring practices, but he and the other quarterbacks have struggled to string together consistent performances. A good showing on Saturday would make this fall's quarterback competition between McEvoy and Stave a lot more interesting.
Chikwe Obasih, DE
Not many people expected Obasih to finish spring camp with the first team defensive line, but the redshirt freshman came on strong during the final two weeks of camp. Gary Andersen has heaped praise on Obasih at almost every turn, and said on Thursday that Obasih would start at defensive end if the Badgers were playing a real opponent on Saturday.
That's a huge jump for someone who wasn't on the two-deep last season. Keep an eye on how quickly he gets off the ball and his technique- if those come together for Obasih during fall camp he'll end up as a perfect fit for Dave Aranda's quicker, more athletic defensive front.
Devin Gaulden, CB
If any player has really "won" a starting job during spring camp it's probably Gaulden, a redshirt junior who has only seen the field in short spurts over the last few years between different long-term injuries. Now that he's healthy, Gaulden has looked like the kind of cornerback the Badgers want to use in the future- he's fast enough to keep up with receivers in coverage and physical enough to play man-to-man coverage without getting pushed around.
Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary are set to return as Wisconsin's starting cornerbacks, but Gaulden seems to have all-but wrapped up the No. 3 spot- which the Badgers are planning on using when they face spread-oriented teams.
Robert Wheelwright, WR
Wheelwright missed the majority of spring camp with a knee injury he suffered during the first week of practices. But he's back on the field now and is looking to show he can be a realistic target for whoever is under center. Wheelwright had a good first day of practice and looked more comfortable and confident after he saw the field as a true freshman last year.
The spring game gives him a chance to show the coaches that that wasn't just a one-off performance. With five freshman wide receivers set to join the team over the summer Wheelwright and Wisconsin's other wideouts need to make their mark now or risk losing some of their reps to the younger players.
Michael Deiter, C
Deiter has been working with the first team offensive line ever since his first day of practice with the Badgers, and the coaches have been very pleased with what they've seen so far. Deiter likely won't start for the Badgers during the regular season as long as Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen return to full strength, but the spring game gives Deiter a chance to show the coaching staff that he would be able to handle a spot in Wisconsin's two-deep this fall.
Not that he has much else to do- it already seems like the coaching staff is planning on putting Deiter on the travel roster. They'll redshirt him if they can, but Deiter seems to have proven that he could play right away if the Badgers needed him.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.