Paying attention to Zack Oliver

With a strong training camp performance, Zack Oliver is forcing himself into the quarterback discussion for future seasons.

I'm hesitant to begin another conversation about quarterbacks. The first, in which I suggested that Kain Colter move to wide receiver, met with polarizing response.

If anything, my interview and column–later republished on Lake the Posts–indicated something about this fan base. We talk incessantly about the lack of controversy, but the reaction said something else.

The debate persists. I don't expect anything to change within the offense this season. That's not the point. What matters is the split decision when it comes to maximizing this team's offensive potential. And the quarterback depth chart raises even more questions past the first two options:

"Zack Oliver has come a long way in the past year, really improving his accuracy." — Chris Emma's report from Kenosha

Cosign. It's very real and visible improvement. Stranded behind Colter and Siemian on the depth chart, Oliver plays as though he wants the chance. This is an admirable mindset.

It's not naïve to raise the question about his future with NU. It's not your standard overreaction to solid outings in practice. I believe this is the biggest week of Zack Oliver's career for multiple reasons.

First, if Trevor Siemian suffers an injury, then what? Does Pat Fitzgerald choose to play Colter under center full-time or does he replace Siemian with a more conventional pocket passer? With Matt Alviti's redshirt year an absolute must for the future of this team, Oliver would be the next in line.

His performances during training camp will influence the coaching staff's decision in this worst-case hypothetical situation. Regardless, it's important to have depth at QB, and the Wildcats know that.

Second, let's be real: He's competing with Matt Alviti. A true freshman from Maine South HS (Ill.), Alviti entered camp and immediately proved his worth. He has the elusive "it" factor that will serve him well in future seasons.

Assuming that Siemian starts throughout his senior year, Oliver will be a senior and Alviti a sophomore in 2015. (Also add highly touted recruit Clayton Thorson to the mix.) Fitzgerald and Mick McCall will choose the most prepared guy, and that could end up being any one of the three candidates.

So far, it's been a superlative offseason and training camp for Oliver—who we can no longer ignore in the never-ending QB discussion. Another solid week, and we can guess that the quiet veteran might soon be worth the investment.

Northwestern returns to practice on Tuesday afternoon. Stay tuned to PurpleWildcats.com for more subscriber-exclusive practice notes and team stories.


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