Quarterbacks: One-A, One-B

In the first of the PurpleWildcats post-spring position breakdowns, Nick Medline discusses the quarterback situation.

What they're saying

"We want to bring these young guys around. It's not really about me and [Trevor] competing. It's about bringing the whole team along." — Kain Colter

"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." — Pat Fitzgerald

Progress Report

Zack Oliver served as the sort of pace in this Northwestern quarterbacking unit. With his exceptional arm strength, Oliver set the tone with some memorable downfield throws.

Oftentimes, Mick McCall simply dialed up the same play on three consecutive occasions during spring drills. At first, Kain Colter lagged behind in terms of arm strength. Little by little, he caught up.

Wideout Tony Jones said he was "in awe" of the throws Colter made in the later stages of practice. And meanwhile, Siemian demonstrated surprising elusiveness—part of Colter's usual repertoire.

There was noticeable improvement shown by quarterbacks, and perhaps more so than within other position groups. A year into the cemented two-quarterback system, both Colter and Siemian understand their roles and are growing increasingly comfortable.

The major focus was on establishing versatility. Siemian worked in option sets; Colter excelled in some drop-back situations. Everything might revert to the old ways when the season begins, but spring was the perfect opportunity for the quarterbacks to grow in other areas.

What we're thinking

Nothing much changes here. The surest hint of future plans came during the Gator Bowl victory, in which McCall alternated quarterbacks during drives. Before then, he typically alternated between Colter-led drives and Siemian drives. The plan against Mississippi State found some success—obviously by catching the defense off guard.

The greatest shift might arrive with the passing game. In most of the team's weaker efforts, Siemian and Colter struggled to connect with receivers downfield.

There's really no reason to blame the wideouts, especially heading into this season. With Tony Jones, Christian Jones, Rashad Lawrence and a rapidly emerging Cameron Dickerson, the wideouts look poised for significant opportunities. That could all change. The team might rush on more than 60 percent of plays once again. But a vertical threat might add an entirely different dimension to this offense.

Some speculation: Because the two-quarterback system is very much a defining characteristic to this offense, I'd argue that Zack Oliver might see the field. It's a long shot, but if Trevor Siemian goes down, does Oliver serve as the change in pace? Perhaps.

There's a great deal to look forward to on this front. Fitzgerald is confident this quarterback combination gives NU its best chance of winning the Big Ten. Maybe we should be too.


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