Two-QB systems and the next level

In his weekly column, Jamie Lovegrove discusses his thoughts on Northwestern's two-quarterback system.

Kain Colter had more yards per rushing attempts last season than Montee Ball. He ended the season with more rushing yards total than the starting backs for Purdue, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. He was tied for the fourth highest number of rushing touchdowns in the Big Ten at 12 – the same number as Venric Mark.

We all know that Colter is a remarkable athlete. But sometimes it is easy to forget that the reason why the read option was so successful this past season for the Wildcats was because defenses feared the possibility of the quarterback holding onto it as much as they did him tossing it off to the running back.

Nobody–other than Pat Fitzgerald and Mick McCall–knows how the balance will play out between Colter and Trevor Siemian in the upcoming season. But in 2012, critics debated whether a two quarterback system could actually succeed in the Big Ten. It seems as though the ultimate consensus was that it didn't hurt.

With the right implementation, this season it could do more than just "not hurt." It could be the reason the ‘Cats reach the next level.

So much of the college game revolves around the week-long preparation leading up to the games. Film, statistics, play calling and every last inch of the opponent's potential game plan is analyzed and analyzed again.

It is much more difficult to prepare for a team with as diverse a group of weapons as Northwestern possesses. Most teams would rather try to shut down one star player than have to worry about a Kain Colter, a Trevor Siemian, a Venric Mark and a Mike Trumpy all on the same team. That's a lot of different defensive tactics.

For at least the time being, we know the Wildcats are not the type of program with a Braxton Miller, Tim Tebow all-around rock do-it-all under center (don't rule it out in the future with the way the class of 2014 recruiting has been going). But this situation is nothing to pout about. If anything it gives Fitz and the offense more options at all points in the game.

Naturally, Colter has spent much of his offseason working on his throwing arm to keep defenses honest, as has Siemian with his running ability. With the losses on the offensive line arguably being the biggest graduating holes for the ‘Cats to fill this season, both of them will have their work cut out for them as they navigate the tougher parts of the schedule.

5:03 was printed on the spring practice shirts as a reminder of just how close the team was to an undefeated season. The quarterbacks will have to work as hard as anyone to put last season's pressure mistakes behind them and focus on becoming more reliable in clutch situations.

Holding onto a slim lead seemed a lot harder for the two of them than coming back from a deficit. The team threw four of their seven interceptions last season when winning by 1-7 points. When they were losing by that same amount, they threw seven touchdowns and not a single interception. Siemian's dramatic game-winning drive at Syracuse in week one comes to mind.

In the end, it may just come down to a little more focus on Fitz's go-to saying: "Trust Yourself." If Colter can look past the doubters in the press box and in the stands and believe in his throwing arm a little more, he may have found the key in unleashing his full potential during his senior season.

It's not going to be easy, but it will be interesting to see where he fits in the mix of Big Ten quarterbacks next season. Braxton Miller and Taylor Martinez await head-to-head matchups in weeks six and ten.

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