NOTRE DAME — Extra work and moving up and down the line does not seem to bother Kona Schwenke.
Nose guard? All good. Over to the end spot? He’s says that’s just fine.
“I’ll still play nose if (Louis Nix III) went down. When I got here, I started off at D-end. I’m kind of moving around to where I was needed to help the team,” Schwenke said Wednesday, Oct. 2 as Notre Dame prepared for its Shamrock Series game against Arizona State in Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 5. “I’m pretty familiar with all three spots.”
With Sheldon Day missing the last two games and with the constant substitution of personnel, especially on the defensive line, Schwenke has found himself on the field on more occasions than last year. In fact, through five games, the 6-foot-3, 303-pounder from Hawaii has the exact same tackle statistics — one solo, four assists — as he logged during all of 2012.
So far, teams have found a measure of success attacking Notre Dame with quickness to the edges. The rotation of fresh bodies becomes even more crucial now.
That said, head coach Brian Kelly says there is a fine line with Schwenke as he slides into dual roles.
“There is a learning curve there because the responsibilities there change quite a bit. I thought he’s done a pretty good job,” Kelly said this week. “We had some missed assignments for him, and here’s the biggest difference ... The volume. His volume jump was huge, and then you’re getting tired. We’ve got to get him out.”
“We’re getting less productivity, so I think that’s been the biggest jump. He’s been able to settle into the role relative to what we’re asking him to do, but we have to be much more careful with the amount of reps that he’s getting.”
In five games, defensive linemen have produced just five tackles for loss and three quarterbacks sacks, though Prince Shembo, an outside linebacker who often comes on the rush, has a logged a team-high eight quarterback hurries in the stats box.
Kelly said Thursday that Day, who has been nursing a sore ankle, will play against the Sun Devils.
Schwenke, who was strictly a nose man last season, said getting comfortable with the extra assignments isn’t an issue, though it has taken time. Work at the “stud’’ position is more one-on-one play while the nose requires more physicality with the multiple double-team blocks.
“It was hard at first, but you start to get into a rhythm, you start to get used to it,” he said. “I’m getting used to a tempo of playing more than two to three snaps.
“We feel like a lot of teams are trying to move the ball outside. We just have to prepare for what teams throw at us.”