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Northwestern spring practice preview: five players to watch

Here are five players to watch during spring practice, which begins Wednesday.

Dean Lowry, DE

While InsideNU's Chris Johnson chose to focus his spring preview of the defensive line on Ifeadi Odenigbo, junior Dean Lowry will be the player to watch on the defensive front this spring, especially with Odenigbo being held out due to injury. After studying Tyler Scott for years, Lowry has shown that he has the capability to take over games.

In 2013, Lowry was second on the team with 7 tackles for loss and third in sacks even as he missed three games due to injury. Lowry has the size (6-foot-6, 265 lbs) along with the talent to wreak havoc along the defensive front. This spring will go along way to show how much he's improved and whether or not he will able able to fill the void left by Scott.

Kyle Prater, WR

The former USC Trojan and highly touted recruit has yet to make any sort of impact for Northwestern as he heads into his senior season. Kyle Prater is a physical beast at 6-foot-5 but hasn't been able to prove to the coaching staff that he can create separation from defenders.

If Prater was able to improve his speed after a relatively healthy 2013 season, he could quickly move up the depth chart this spring and position himself to see the field more in 2014.

Pierre Youngblood-Ary, WR

Similar to Prater, Pierre Youngblood-Ary dominated practice at the wide receiver position in 2013, but rarely saw the field. He didn't catch a pass in 2013, despite his long 6-foot-3 frame.

Youngblood-Ary is part of a crop of Northwestern wide receivers (along with Prater, Christian Jones and Cameron Dickerson) who are at least 6-foot-3 and he has the talent to separate himself from the other bigger receivers, but hasn't shown the coaching staff that he can perform consistently on the field. With a strong spring, Youngblood-Ary could compete for a bigger offensive role.

Trevor Siemian, QB

After seeing the field extensively in a complimentary role the past couple seasons, Trevor Siemian finally has the full reigns as the starting quarterback. Siemian comes into the spring after an up-and-down 2013 where he finished the season with one of the most prolific passing games in Northwestern history in a win over Illinois.

It will be interesting to see how Siemian steps into the leadership role of being atop the depth chart even with redshirt freshman Matt Alviti looking to push him. If Siemian can hold off Alviti, he will be in a great position for a solid 2014 season.

Jack Konopka, OT

The offensive line struggled last season to protect both Siemian and Kain Colter. Their development seemed to stall. Looking ahead to the spring and further to the 2014, left tackle Jack Konopka will be a major part of the o-line's improvement.

After moving from the right side to the left side last season, a second season protecting Siemian's blindside should help Konopka's development. The senior has solid hands and quick feet as he started his career at Northwestern as a superback. Along with center Brandon Vitabile, Konopka will be an anchor of Northwestern's offensive front, a unit that must improve if Northwestern will see success in 2014.