Kain Colter, quarterback
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the case of Kain Colter last Saturday, this certainly proved to be the case. Colter never threw a pass as the offense sputtered, and this led to criticism of the offensive game plan. Expect him back in a featured role, at the very least getting more targets and touches against Minnesota.
Ibraheim Campbell, safety
Campbell received a great deal of hype as a freshman. He intercepted Denard Robinson twice at Ryan Field last season, an impressive accomplishment. As Chi Chi Ariguzo dominated the defensive headlines in the first five weeks, Campbell put forth uninspired performances. That changed Saturday, as he held strong over the top and made 14 tackles. The interceptions have yet to come, but Campbell showed flashes of brilliance.
Damien Proby, linebacker
Proby mans the middle of the field with poise. It's not an easy position and it's about time he gets some recognition. David Nwabuisi may be more physical and Ariguzo has been the major playmaker. Still, Proby feels like the anchor with his strong fundamentals and superior tackling ability. The linebackers were busy against Penn State and often seemed lost in pass coverage, but 16 tackles are nothing to scoff at.
Adam Cushing, offensive line coach
This guy faced an incredibly difficult task: prepare Chuck Porcelli, Jack Konopka and Neal Deiters for significant action. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say the unit has improved every week of the season. Though they were hardly perfect in the Nittany Lions matchup, the offensive linemen generally impressed in their toughest challenge thus far. NU fans should be optimistic looking forward.
Trevor Siemian, quarterback
Siemian was lousy on Saturday, throwing for only 135 yards. The one glaring Penn State fault was that the defense failed to intercept any of the sophomore's inaccurate passes. The performance cast doubt as to whether Siemian has the mettle to succeed against tough defenses. Colter can survive using his feet. Siemian needs to make throws. A solid outing against a decent Minnesota secondary would help Siemian regain some of his confidence.
This unit was phenomenal early in the season. The defensive linemen, who Deonte Gibson said comprised the "most ridiculed" base team after last season, dominated Vanderbilt. Players like Gibson and Brian Arnfelt stormed through pass protection, and sophomore Sean McEvilly earned a starting role. Unfortunately for NU, the front four struggled in the second half against the Nittany Lions, failing to put pressure on Matt McGloin.
A staple of the NU offense in the Indiana contest, the zone read almost disappeared against Penn State. The Cats offense was hardly explosive and a change of pace might have been effective. Both Colter and Mark seemed frustrated with the offensive game plan, which included several dropback passes and little innovation. If NU wants to get its ground game back in order against Minnesota, expect the return of this deceptive option.