No controversy at quarterback

For many schools across the country, spring drills offer the beginning of a quarterback controversy. For Northwestern, there's no debate to be had. The Wildcats will continue to work with their two-quarterback system, which has seen great success in recent years.

Kain Colter embraces the competition.

In his freshman season, he was behind Evan Watkins on the depth chart. Then, he took the backseat as Northwestern formed an elaborate Heisman campaign for Dan Persa.

When Colter took the spotlight, and when the spotlight was taken away, he accepted the situation. He focused on helping the team in whatever role.

"I've never been the only guy," he said.

Nothing changes this season. Trevor Siemian – his competition – will share snaps under center. Colter will likely see time at wide receiver to round out his versatile game.

The two-quarterback system led to mixed results last season. Though each quarterback had a clearly defined skillset, the substitutions seemed to interrupt their rhythm at times. The offense stalled on Oct. 6 at Penn State, and despite early-season success through the air, Colter did not attempt a pass. Siemian went 15-for-36 for 135 yards in the loss.

Offensive coordinator Mick McCall has the offseason to devise a plan for his quarterback rotation, which evolved throughout the 2012 campaign. The outline, though, remains the same.

"We both know that we're going to end up playing," Colter said. "It's not a surprise to anybody."

Coach Pat Fitzgerald thinks this gives the Wildcats a better chance of winning. Siemian can excel in the pocket. Colter effectively runs zone reads alongside Venric Mark. That two-pronged attack frustrated several defenses, and Fitzgerald does not expect to veer from that game plan.

"From the way that Mick and the offensive staff were able to put together a plan… it looked like it gave us a chance to win a championship," Fitzgerald said.

In an age of ego politics, both quarterbacks – at least from an outside perspective – appear calm and humble. They're friends. They help each other improve and learn the offense, and frequently joke around.

The "controversy," as some called it, caused significant media uproar. At times, the system was confusing. But the coaching staff views the "competition" as an opportunity to get that elusive eleventh victory.

"There's a battle to help us win," Fitzgerald said. "That's it. I think that both guys can help us win. And if we started Kain today and Trevor tomorrow, you guys would write about it and make it a big deal."

Colter's versatility only complicates the situation. Out wide against Indiana, he caught nine passes for 131 yards, and added 161 more on the ground. In one of the most dominant performances of the college football season, Colter was not the primary quarterback.

Now is not the time for these questions to be answered. As veteran leaders, the quarterback duo expects to help the new-look offense develop. With three new starters on the offensive line, Colter and Siemian concentrate on team play.

"We want to bring these young guys around," Colter said. "It's not really about me and him competing. It's about bringing the whole team along."

Debating their individual merits seems futile. Neither quarterback has proved to be the obvious superior. They have wildly different skillsets.

All season, the quarterback discussion will involve both Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian.

Who will take the first snap in the season opener at Cal?

"Right now, I couldn't tell you," Siemian said.

It's difficult to predict. But if it translates to the win column, no one will be complaining.

Follow on Twitter: @NicholasMedline

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