College football: Kona Schwenke making the most of his time on Notre Dame’s defensive line
By LaMond Pope firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2691 October 31, 2013 11:20PM
Kona Schwenke (96) pressures Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly (10) in the Shamrock Series game against Arizona State. | Photo courtesy of Notre Dame
Updated: October 31, 2013 11:34PM
South Bend — Notre Dame defensive lineman Kona Schwenke had a few questions when he met with coach Brian Kelly earlier in the year.
“I wanted to know what my role was,” Schwenke said Wednesday. “He clarified how big my role was going to be this year. He made me feel good as a person.”
Schwenke has started four of the last five games to aid the Irish’s banged-up line. He replaced nose guard Louis Nix III in the lineup last week against Air Force. Nix, who is recovering from knee tendinitis, will also miss this week’s game against Navy.
Schwenke is making the most of his time.
“We felt like he would (get an opportunity),” Kelly said. “He had a great preseason camp. And he’s been really important to us this year. And his play has been for us the best it’s been since he’s been here.”
The senior has eight tackles, including one against the Falcons. And he’s received some buzz that might extend his playing career beyond college.
“We’re getting a lot of favorable reports on him being able to play next year as well, at the next level,” Kelly said. “He’s a kid who is lean at 305 pounds right now. They’re hard to find at 6-foot-4. And he’s played well for us.”
Schwenke, who is from Hauula, Hawaii, appeared in five games as a freshman. He made two tackles. Schwenke saw action in three games in 2011. Last year, he played in 11 games and had five tackles.
He’s already surpassed his tackles total while appearing in all eight games this season.
“Before the season started, we had a little bit of a rotation, not that much. As we’ve gotten into the season, people started falling out and that’s when I realized I was going to play a big part in defending against offenses this year,” Schwenke said.
He said the improvements have come with adjusting to his size.
“I came in at 225. I’m at about 300 right now,” he said. “It’s been a hard transition since freshman year getting used to my weight. I finally got used to my weight and I’ve been able to move around like I want to.”
While the chatter about the next level is nice, Schwenke said his focus right now is on helping Notre Dame.
“Playing football for a long time, it has always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL,” he said. “But since I’ve been here I’ve been moving around. I’ve just been trying to help my team. When I heard about it, as a player you get kind of excited. Right now, I’m just going with the flow.
“I haven’t talked to coach about anything past Notre Dame right now.”
Notes: Offensive lineman Chris Watt (knee), Sheldon Day (ankle) and Elijah Shumate (hamstring) are expected to play Saturday, Kelly announced Thursday.