CHICAGO — No two-quarterback system comes without its share of controversy. Northwestern’s 2012 version is not an exception to this rule. Starting week 1, following a thrilling win at Syracuse, and running throughout most of the regular season, people critiqued the two-quarterback system a number of different ways. When Kain Colter threw an incomplete pass, fans clamored for Trevor Siemian. When Siemian took a sack the more-mobile Colter might have otherwise evaded, they pleaded for a switch the other way. The value of having “the guy” in the locker room and the divisive potential of two quarterbacks trying to undermine each other in an adversarial competition for “No. 1 status” was widely and frequently discussed.
Frankly, a lot of it seemed really dumb and presumptuous at the time. Turns out, at least one of the players directly involved with the two-QB ordeal felt the same way.
“It’s stupid,” Colter said of the critiques aimed at Northwestern’s two-quarterback system. “He [Siemian] has a unique skill set that he’s a little better at; I have a unique skill set that I’m a little better at. You just have to embrace that.”
Other Big Ten coaches and players weighed in on the Wildcats’ two quarterback system, what makes it so difficult to defend and how their respective teams went about preparing for it last season.
Here’s a sampling:
- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio: “They’ve both had success, they both counteract each other. One guy’s a little more of a runner, one guy’s a little more of a thrower. So, you can’t approach them the same way; you have to know when each guy is in the game. It’s like having two different pitchers in baseball.”
- Michigan senior safety Thomas Gordon: “They’re so unpredictable. When you have one of them in, it’s a spread option, zone read; and then with the other one coming in, you have to adjust to a more complex passing game.”
- Minnesota coach Jerry Kill: “Coach Fitz does a great job with the uptempo system – they have great diversity in their attack. The complement is being able to switch quarterbacks like they do and not being able to disrupt their continuity. For a lot of people, that’s not easy; they don’t seem to miss a beat when they do that.”
- Michigan State senior linebacker Max Bullough: “Facing one quarterback that can run is one thing. Having two different quarterbacks that can do two different things is that much harder. It’s just about making sure that you can switch your defensive mindset for when each quarterback comes in the game.”
“When we practice, we use two different quarterbacks for scout team. One that can move and can run – that might be a walk-on or a redshirt DB or something; then we’ll have another guy who’s a better thrower come in – last year, it was [RS Fr. QB] Tyler O’Connor.”
- Michigan coach Brady Hoke: “I think, number one, they have a quarterback, Colter, who’s a very athletic, very intelligent young man. When you’re defending him, I don’t know if it’s necessarily the spread, but the athletes running the spread. Because of the decision he makes. I think Mick McCall has done a really good job as an offensive coordinator.”
- Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard: “It’s very tough, because you’ve got two different quarterbacks. One’s mobile and one’s a pocket passer, so they can be dangerous at both times. You have to know which quarterback’s in, because you have to change up your style of play and it’s kind of difficult.
It throws you off balance, because one qb can both run and throw and the other one can just sit there and sling it a mile. So, you have to really pay attention to the quarterback changes. They’re great quarterbacks and they know how to play their game”
- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz: “They’re both good players. They’re both very different players, but they’re both good players. We certainly had a hard time containing them. It’s two separate offenses.”