Spread Head

Great academics, fiery coaches, beautiful campus. Sure, when Purple Reign talked with 2010 quarterback commit Trevor Siemian, all the standard reasons to attend Northwestern were there. But the QB was excited about something else too: NU's spread offense, a near-clone to the offense Siemian has run for four years in high school. Inside, see what Siemian had to say about NU's spread.

It would be inaccurate to put too much stock into just this one thing. Truth be told, there were a number of factors that led Orlando, Fla., quarterback Trevor Siemian to Northwestern.

The education at Northwestern "speaks for itself," Siemian said. The coaches "aren't going to treat me like a piece of meat." The campus is "beautiful," the surrounding area "awesome."

So yeah, there were a lot of reasons that Siemian – NU's third commit for the class of 2010 – decided to become a Wildcat.

But deep down, he's still a football player, still a quarterback. And part of him was lured to the Wildcats not by the lakeside campus, insightful coaches or all-world education.

Kid likes to throw the ball.

And what better place to keep your arm loose than no-huddle, shotgun-or-bust Northwestern?

"Different colleges were telling me, ‘You're a drop back sort of guy,'" Siemian said. "But I run (the spread) in high school, a lot of no huddle, call it at the line. It's definitely cool knowing that I should be comfortable with that when I get to Northwestern."

Siemian's coach at Olympia High School, Bob Head, said that the chance to orchestrate NU's spread attack helped seal the deal for his 6-3, 180-pound QB.

"To be honest with you, it was a big factor," Head said. "He wanted that spread offense because we're always in the gun (at Olympia). We run the ball out of the shotgun, we do a lot of quick passes, we spread the ball all over the field. We do everything from that formation, so Northwestern running the spread was big."

While NU does run the ball out of the spread, it's still a pass-first system. Last season, for example, Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher was 23rd in the nation in pass attempts despite missing two games.

If Bacher had played in those two contests and hit his per-game average of 37 attempts, then he would have been in the top 10 in the nation in attempts. Still, Bacher never attempted less than 29 passes in a game, and he had individual games with 43, 45 and 61 tosses.

Head doesn't see Siemian having any problem when he leaves Olympia's spread for Northwestern's.

"I think (his experience with the spread) is so valuable," Head said. "We're a shotgun spread team, no huddle. We pass 60 times a game. It's going to be really familiar to him. He's not going to be intimidated by it. He's going to pick it up really quick."

The Wildcats' spread is especially noteworthy in the Big Ten, which still has a reputation – not totally undeserved – for being a power football, cloud-of-dust conference. Iowa quarterback Richard Stanzi, for instance, never attempted more than 30 passes in a game last season, and on five occasions threw 15 or less. And even after he became the full-time starter, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor only once attempted more than 20 passes; in seven of ten starts, he had less than 15 attempts.

Adam Weber of Minnesota was the only Big Ten QB with more attempts than NU's Bacher – by two. And Weber, by the way, played in every game.

It's true that the Big Ten is spreading out a bit. Minnesota passed it a ton last season, Michigan's Rich Rodriguez is (painfully) installing a spread, Purdue has been slinging it around since the mid-1990s.

Nonetheless, Siemian seemed most impressed with Northwestern's offensive philosophy.

"The quarterback obviously has a lot of control in whatever offense a team runs," Siemian said. "But in the Big Ten it seems like everybody runs that smash mouth stuff.

"At the end of the day it's still football; you got 11 guys on each side. But you get to throw the ball around a little more being a spread quarterback."

At Northwestern, that's what Siemian will be.

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