Northwestern quarterbacks bring different skill sets to the table

Kain Colter, chased by Nebraska defensive end Eric Martin in last October's Husker victory, is the dual-threat man in Northwestern's two-quarterback system. He ran for 891 yards and 12 touchdowns last season while passing for 872 yards and four touchdowns. He sometimes plays receiver when Trevor Siemian is at quarterback.


Upon reading that a football team alternates two quarterbacks, a word expected to soon follow is “controversy.”

Not at Northwestern, say senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian.

“We're 1 and 1-A,” said Colter, a senior from Denver.

“It's an interesting dynamic,” said Siemian, a junior from Windermere, Fla. “We both bring different skill sets. The whole offense benefits from it. It's whatever it takes.”

The 6-foot, 190-pound Colter is the run-pass threat. He ran for 891 yards and 12 touchdowns last season while passing for 872 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-3, 210-pound Siemian is more a dropback passer. He threw for 1,312 yards and six touchdowns.

“We complement each other,” Colter said. “Trevor may not be the fastest guy on the field, and I may not have the strongest arm. But when you mix us together, we can make up for what we don't have.”

Though Colter started 12 games last season and Siemian one, daily competition to be No. 1 continues.

“We're both not idiots,” Colter said. “We both know we're going to play. So we're not worried about that.”

Why then does the battle to be the starter go on?

“There is something that comes with being QB No. 1,” Colter said. “You have the responsibility to the team, coaches and fans that when the game is on the line, they look at you to make a play and look at you on the sideline to see how you handle the ups and the downs.

“I think we both can do a good job with that.”

One game last year in which alternating quarterbacks might have not have paid off was versus Nebraska.

Against the Huskers, who have struggled with mobile quarterbacks, Siemian threw 35 times (completing 15) while Colter rushed 14 times. The Wildcats were limited to 301 yards of total offense, but Nebraska had to rally from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 29-28.

“You can always look back and say, 'We should have done this, we should have done that,' ” Colter said. “When you look back to the year before and we won in Lincoln, we were flipping three quarterbacks that day.”

There are times when Siemian takes over at quarterback that Colter moves to receiver. That versatility could help Colter with his next football goal.

“I want to get drafted and a chance to play in the NFL,” he said. “Neither my dad (Colorado) nor my uncle (USC) got to play at that level. For me to be first in my family to do (that), that would be huge.”

Colter said his preferred NFL position is “wherever.”

“When scouts come in, I tell them I just want to play,” he said. “I love the game. If you want to put me in at field-goal kicker, I'll do that. Getting paid to play football would be sweet.”

First, Colter wants to finish his college career with a Big Ten title, which won't be easy considering Northwestern's crossover games this season are Ohio State and Wisconsin instead of Indiana and Penn State.

“This is the toughest schedule since I've been here, but that's what we want,” Colter said. “If you want to be the best, you've got to play the best.

“We're not going to shy away from anybody. We want to win a Big Ten championship and put Northwestern back on top. We have a high-character program. I think we would be a great representative of the Big Ten.”

Northwestern, 10-3 last season, was 5 minutes, 3 seconds from perhaps going undefeated. Yet with 17 starters back, the Wildcats aren't getting much run as a conference title contender.

“I feel the media is still picking Ohio State and Michigan and other top-tier schools,” Colter said. “I still don't feel people view us as that.

“People know we are tough and going to play hard, but we're still underdogs.”

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