Most Valuable Wildcats — No. 5: Kain Colter

Our list of the Most Valuable Wildcats continues with No. 5, Kain Colter.

We know the flaws. We've discussed them at length. At times, Kain Colter struggles to throw the ball downfield. At others, he never has the opportunity, with the staff turning to Trevor Siemian for pass-heavy roles.

In 2013, I believe Northwestern would also succeed with one of either Kain Colter or Trevor Siemian. Pat Fitzgerald and Mick McCall devised an appropriate two-quarterback system that doesn't deserve criticism. There's also no need to be hyperbolic by claiming it defines the team in every way.

This is why, in many ways, I was reluctant to place either quarterback atop this list. They're effective in different ways, and each has the skillset to succeed at the helm. And really, Colter changes this team. He moves it into the modern age, when teams use scrambling quarterbacks to their advantage. NU had that with past quarterbacks; now they have it to an extreme.

Colter threw the ball fairly well in the opener against Syracuse, slinging balls down the middle of the field. That didn't always hold up, but he still found meaningful ways to contribute with his noted versatility. He ran for a key score to ice the Vanderbilt game in week two, and later began his race through conference play.

In the Boston College win, he completed 80 percent of his passes. Two weeks later, against Indiana, he delivered his signature performance. Colter ran 14 times for 161 yards and four touchdowns, and added 131 yards receiving. It was incredible to watch regardless of the defensive effort. Hardly any FBS players could accomplish this feat, ever.

Yet here he was, criticized by some, still figuring out the perfect way to contribute. Does Venric Mark run for 1366 yards without Colter confusing the defense at every turn? No way. Mark was exceptional in his own right, but the read option carried this offense throughout the season. They made some passes, yes, but nothing quite compared to that option attack. It terrified some defenses, many of which had absolutely no response.

Though some players are naturally expected to regress after posting career numbers, I'm betting Colter will get even better. He demonstrated visible improvement in spring football, and was much more precise with passes down the middle of the field. Whether it was a mechanical or mental adjustment, or simple progression, or even me going insane, Colter looked better. He passed the eye test.

There's no reason to think his role will fundamentally change his next season. He and Siemian are buoyed by each other's support. They do fight for playing time, but have such different skillsets. It's hard to even argue this marks a competition. They say it isn't.

Regardless, with continued strong performances, we can get rid of that "quarterback controversy" tag and move forward with the 2013 season. Fitzgerald insists the two-quarterback system gives them the best chance of winning championships. At the end of the day, this mindset rings true. With some of the right improvements, this could be pretty close to unstoppable next season. It begins with continued excellent play under center.


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