Dean Lowry plans to be dominant

With Tyler Scott gone, Dean Lowry looks to assume the role of Northwestern's top pass rusher.

Spring practice is usually a light affair, one with time to slowly adjust to personnel and experiment with different rotations. For the NU defensive line, spring couldn't end quickly enough.

"With the defensive line, I can't tell you where we're going to be at in the fall," Pat Fitzgerald said after Saturday's spring game ended. "That's a major work in progress. In no way, shape or form are we ready to make any analysis."

The Wildcats practiced with just six healthy defensive linemen, the majority of whom have yet to see meaningful action. With Tyler Scott gone to graduation and Deonte Gibson out for spring with an injury, Lowry has suddenly been forced into a leadership role.

"We faced adversity having only six guys," Lowry told Saturday. "But we accomplished what we needed to work on. In the West division, there are a lot of downhill running teams, so we needed to look more physical early."

While Greg Kuhar earned praise for his dominance on the inside, Lowry was the one going sideline to sideline all spring. He stepped up his run defense as Jimmy Hall transitioned to a starting linebacker spot, and collapsed the pocket during scrimmage sets.

As a sophomore, Lowry tied for second on the Wildcats with seven tackles for loss, and tallied 4.5 sacks in nine starts. His problem, if you ask him, was consistency: He had two sacks, two interceptions and three pass deflections in his first four games, then zeroes across the board in his next four.

Despite finishing strong with a combined 2.5 sacks against Michigan and Illinois, Lowry knows that he has a lot of work to do before assuming the role of No. 1 defensive end.

"Deonte and I will take care of the stats that Tyler had," Lowry promised. "But first I need to improve my pass rush technique. I need to be effective in every single game this year."

Lowry is unsure as to whether Northwestern will deploy its four-DE "cheetah" package on third downs again this fall, but he noted that with the team's questionable depth at defensive tackle, he would feel comfortable playing in the middle of that package.

The easiest way to cure Fitzgerald's worries is to find one star lineman and build around him. Lowry might have to draw double teams or stunt inside to compensate for NU's tackles, but after two years of upside, assuming that big a role seems natural.

Spring practice is over for this unit, meaning Lowry and Co. will have time to settle down and get key players back. But Lowry himself doesn't plan for any time off between now and Kenosha, and when asked what the personal verdict is going to be for 2014, Lowry jumps without a pause.

"Dominant," he asserted. "Can I say that? Yeah. Let's go with dominant."

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