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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Notre Dame football: Freshman Schwenke making a move

By ERIC HANSEN
Tribune Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND — Percolating at the bottom of the depth chart, most of the Notre Dame football freshmen spend their practice days pretending to be someone else.

In fact, they don't even wear their own uniform numbers, instead donning numbers of opposing players they're supposed to be simulating.

This week, defensive end Kona Schwenke got his old No. 96 back."He's practicing with the varsity right now," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said.

Whether the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Hauula, Hawaii, product actually works his way into Saturday's matchup between ND (2-3) and Pittsburgh (2-2) at Notre Dame Stadium is still to be determined, but he's finally ready.

Schwenke grew up just three miles down the Kamehameha Highway from Irish sophomore Manti Te'o and Robby Toma on Oahu's North Shore, but they went to high school on the opposite ends of the island.

Schwenke of Kahuku High followed Punahou's Te'o as the state's player of the year in 2009, then showed up for a January recruiting trip to South Bend in shorts. He put on 20 pounds between his frigid first impression and his arrival for good on campus in mid-June and helped ready himself for college football by playing rugby in the spring.

Juniors Sean Cwynar and Hafis Williams have been solid defensive line backups, but Kelly still wanted to develop a deeper rotation.

"Kona and (nose guard) Louis Nix have done a real good job in one-on-one drills with our offensive linemen," ND defensive line coach Mike Elston said.

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