For each productive starter, the Wildcats have had solid backup options. When Kafka was injured in 2009, Persa stepped in to the starting role. Last season, Colter assumed the starting job in lieu of Persa, who missed Northwestern's first three games.
Colter appears to be the front-runner to start at quarterback this season, but he is being pushed by Trevor Siemian, who played in eight games last season, plus redshirt freshman Zack Oliver, who has gradually improved since joining the program last August.
When you factor in walk-on quarterback P.J. Carollo, who leads the Wildcats' scout team, Northwestern's depth at quarterback may be stronger than ever.
"We've got three guys right now that we can win with," said Fitzgerald of his three candidates to start at quarterback. "P.J. (Carollo) assumes his role and does a great, great job for us and helps the program. I think we're in a pretty good position."
Under Fitzgerald, Northwestern has taken a quarterback in four of its six classes. In 2008, the Wildcats did not take a quarterback, but added two -- Colter and Siemian -- in the following class.
Northwestern did not add a quarterback for its 2012 recruiting class, though still has four on its roster. Fitzgerald is making it a priority to add a quarterback, or possibly two, for the class of 2013.
Thus far, the Wildcats have extended a scholarship offer to seven quarterbacks -- six four-star recruits -- with only one (Malik Zaire) off the board, committed to Notre Dame. Northwestern is in the running for Aaron Bailey, Trent Hosick, Matthew Alviti, TraVon Chapman, Mitch Trubisky and Chavas Rawlins. All but Rawlins are rated as top-20 quarterback prospects.
"Obviously it's a critical, critical position in this year's recruiting class," said Fitzgerald. "We need to have a little separation between our quarterbacks (in each recruiting class); we don't want them all lumped together. We want to have a little separation with this (2012 recruiting class) we signed right now."
To ensure depth for this upcoming season, Fitzgerald is considering whether to add an extra arm, or maybe two.
"We might add a couple walk-ons that can help us, come in and compete, and see if they can earn themselves into a varsity role," Fitzgerald said. "It's a critical position, obviously, with what we do."