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One Less Day Til Football Season 2011, Post One: Northwestern's Quarterbacks


It's time to begin counting until the time when it's time for FOOTBALL. In a long series!

Yes. It's time for me to begin previewing Northwestern's football season, position by po-friggin-sition, week-by-week, until it's time for Northwestern to kick off against Boston College. These posts will be fairly formulaic. But watch and see. Through breaking down NU's options at cornerback, a lot of days will turn into very little days. And soon, it will be football season, and we can gripe about real things instead of griping about how bad I am at writing.

So let's do this.

Days left til football season: 74. (Thanks, HTP for the countdown clock! Also, hey, nine more than when I started last year!)

One Less Day Left Til Football Season, Post One: Quarterback

Who did it last year?: When the team was 7-3, first-team all-conference Dan Persa. When Persa's achilles tendon got mangled, Evan Watkins, then occasionally Kain Colter.

As we all know, Persa was a revelation. After brief glimpses in his sophomore year - he ran the ball a lot but was effective, leading scoring drives against Iowa, then running a few more times against Illinois - we had an idea that there was a super-fast guy, but I questioned whether or not he was a good thrower. Turns out, YUP. For the second straight year, a graduating quarterback gave us pause for what could happen in the next year, then, it turned out the next guy was considerably more effective. (No offense to C.J. Bacher, and Mike Kafka, who was a revelation of his own right.) Persa accounted for... well, all of NU's offense. He threw on the run, he threw from the pocket, he threw short, he threw long, he gained yards scrambling, he gained yards on designed runs. He did everything asked of him. In a few weeks, Persa went from a guy I wasn't confident in, to a guy I was surprised at for throwing 90 percent complete passes against Vanderbilt, to a guy I was convinced was NU's sole reason for remaining competitive in games.

Evan Watkins didn't. He was thrust into an awkward situation and, unlike Persa and Kafka in years prior. It's literally impossible to blame Watkins - only a redshirt freshman, and clearly blessed with a cannon - for not performing well against Illinois, Wisconsin and Texas Tech, but, the truth is he didn't.

None of us expected Kain Colter to play. He's a high candidate for a Andrew Brewer/every other Northwestern wide receiver ever switch to wide receiver with his tremendous speed, and NU didn't seem particularly thrilled with having him throw the ball.

To answer the question, Persa. Persa Persa Persa. Persa was busy setting completion percentage records while throwing about four times as many TD's as interceptions (as well as leading the team in rushing through his injury, only missing the team high by 11 yards despite missing the last three games and being sacked more than any other QB in the conference) while his two backups were a slightly below 50 percent 39-for-79 with two touchdowns and eight picks.

Hit the jump for more stuff.

Did you write any extraordinarily dumb stuff on this site about Dan Persa last year?: No. Course not.

Sure?: Uhh, totally.

Like, totally incorrect things that should wreck all your credibility about what you have to say about predicting anything in the future?: Okay, let's just get this over with.

From this same post last year, dated June 30, 2010:

"I sense he isn't very confident in his throwing ability...Persa, to me, won't trust his arm enough to make those little tiny out routes that make NU's offense click."

From my 2010 Spring Game summary, dated April 28, 2010, under the category "Things I expected, Bad Edition":

"Dan Persa is not my boy: I'm sure he'll do fine next year. I just don't like the scramble first mentality I've seen from him his whole career. He looked dedicated to attempting to chill out in the pocket, and it backfired as he got "sacked" three times, and his statline - 7-11 with a pick - leaves stuff to be desired."

From a post entitled "HYPE AND SPECULATION, BABY", dated April 12, 2010, of which the premise was that after seeing a scrimmage, I felt that Persa was more in line with traditional NU dink-and-dunk offenses while Watkins could provide a more varied passing attack:

"Again, we have two quarterbacks with divergent styles: Persa the NU QB clone, the quick dude whose arm suffers from Chad Pennington-itis, and the guy (Evan Watkins) who, right now, is the best option at quarterback." (Jesus.)

EXPLAIN YOURSELF DAMMIT: Well, I can't really. I made the mistake of reading way too into scrimmages, and it's one I'll never make again. Having seen what I saw - Dan Persa, a short speedster about whom many questions had been asked - can he throw? Why does he scramble so much? Can he see over the line of scrimmage? - and Evan Watkins, a 6-foot-6 gunslinger - I stand by my decision to be critical. But, holy crap, I can't believe I wrote any of these things. That said, I repeatedly said Persa could turn out well and also said other stuff that turned out to be true! I said Jeremy Ebert would develop into a true No. 1 WR in that same spring game post! Come on!

Who's got next?: Assuming a recovery from his Achilles injury, Persa. Nobody is surprised, Phil Steele has him first team all-Big Ten. Watkins and Colter should be relegated to backup duty, and hopefully don't have to come out of that role, because their work wasn't awe-inspiring. I do express worry as I did for much of last year that Persa's propensity for propelling himself into contact might lead to premature injury, but he did it all last year, and his injury ended up coming on a fluky no-contact touchdown throw.

Exciting?: Yes. A healthy Persa is NU's hope for victory, and there's really no way around it. NU will depend on him to do everything he did last year to be successful.

What's up with NU quarterbacks of yore?: Mike Kafka is busy being the only person showing up at Eagles workouts, alongside Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant, both NU killers of yore. C.J. Bacher, well, appears to have joined every other NU quarterback in the ranks of the not employed as a professional quarterback.

Who else we got?: Watkins and Colter will hopefully progress - Watkins, learning how not to overthrow people, Colter, learning how to throw, period. (Although we shouldn't really be too harsh on either, especially Colter, probably NU's MVP in the TicketCity Bowl after registering 100 yards on the ground.) I think Colter will make a... Persa-esque QB if he sticks at that spot, because he's insanely fast, and crazy talented scrambling out of the pocket. If Kafka and Persa have taught me anything, it's that accurate throwing might be something speedy QB's can attain. To be honest, it would be nice to see Colter redshirt this year and Trevor Siemian, who we've seen little of, even in scrimmages, as a third-stringer. Siemian wasn't ultra-impressive in spring ball, going 5-for-14 in the spring game with two picks, but could develop into a rare pocket passer for NU. The Cats also bring in Zach Oliver, who is another tall pro-style quarterback, but with four guys ahead of him, is definitely redshirting.