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Defensive linemen become focus of Northwestern’s scrimmage

Updated: September 19, 2013 10:18AM



KENOSHA, Wis. — Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald says he has a soft spot for his defensive linemen, who play what he thinks is the most grueling position in football.

Considering Fitzgerald’s feelings about how hard those players work, it would have been logical to speculate he would sit many of them out of the scrimmage Saturday.

But Fitzgerald’s love for the group actually compelled him to do the opposite. He played many of his defensive linemen in the scrimmage, regardless of their class. He thought it would be one of the only opportunities to simulate the physicality the Wildcats will see when they open the season Aug. 31 at Cal.

‘‘I believe that’s the hardest
position to play in football, and we wanted to make it a little challenging on those guys,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘We wanted to make it a little more realistic for them, [and] I thought they handled it really well.’’

Fitzgerald has indicated he plans to use a wave of players on the defensive line, hoping to keep the group fresh throughout each game. But there were key players who stood out Saturday and should see significant action against Cal.

Sophomore defensive end Dean Lowry was intent on playing in the scrimmage. He played well in the scrimmage last year and subsequently played in all 13 games as a true freshman.

Lowry said the scrimmage is among the most intense parts of camp and thought he needed to play to prepare for the season.

Senior defensive lineman Will Hampton didn’t know he would be playing until early Saturday, but he said he thought the defensive line really came together in the estimated 15 plays he was on the field.

‘‘As the older guys . . . we really wanted to dominate and dominate the line of scrimmage,’’ Hampton said. ‘‘We’re just getting out there and competing. We wanted to put some consistent plays on film [and] just go out there and work hard.’’

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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