by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
Make no mistake, Kain Colter is a good quarterback.
The following is not said because of any mistake he made in Northwestern’s wild win over Syracuse. He made big plays with both his arm and his feet, throwing for 135 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding 40 yards on the ground. But Colter, NU’s most versatile athlete, wasn’t on the field for that final, game-winning drive.
Maybe he was hurt after sustaining a blindside hit to his non-throwing shoulder in second quarter, as Colter said. But, particularly because he continued playing after the injury, I have a hard time believing he was hurt enough to sit out the most important drive of the game.
Maybe Fitzgerald felt more comfortable with backup QB Trevor Siemian’s arm over Colter’s mobility. That’s fine, but that leaves the team’s best athlete sitting on the sideline.
So maybe, at that point, Colter’s most useful position was not at quarterback, but elsewhere on the field.
Where is Colter most useful to the team? The answer might not always be as QB 1. If Fitzgerald is going to go with QB 2 in the most important drive of the game, couldn’t Colter instead take the position of QB 1.5 and occasionally put his talents to use elsewhere on the field?
His presence on the field alone poses the threat of a big play, drawing the attention of the defense. Even if Fitzgerald didn’t want him on the field as the quarterback for the final drive, Colter could easily go in at wide receiver or running back and be just as effective as he is at quarterback.
Is the risk of him being injured at one of these other positions greater than the loss of talent by keeping him on the sidelines?
No one would question the fact that Colter is an extremely versatile athlete. But his strongest assets are his speed and mobility. Shouldn’t the strongest assets of a quarterback be his arm strength, accuracy, or ability to read a defense? Mobility is an excellent asset for a quarterback to have, but it should ultimately be secondary to the traditional quarterbacking skills.
Colter has below-average arm strength, good accuracy, and moderate, though still-developing, ability to read defenses. However, he has excellent speed and agility. Those skills could probably be put to better use at wide receiver or running back, both of which Colter played quite successfully last season, amassing 654 yards rushing and 466 yards receiving in 2011.
Siemian showed on the final drive that he has the ability to run this offense efficiently and effectively, going 8-for-11 for 78 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass on Saturday. With Siemian seeing a good portion of the time at quarterback, Colter could fulfill a similar role as last season, when he saw substantial time at all three positions.
The only problem with this theory is that NU is fairly stacked at wide receiver, and junior running back Venric Mark shined in Saturday’s victory, establishing him, for now, as the number one option in the backfield. But for a player as versatile as Colter, space could be made at all three positions—wide receiver, running back, and quarterback—to take advantage of his numerous skills.
Constantly rotating positions would be undoubtedly difficult for Colter but ultimately best for the team. If Fitzgerald wants to get the most out of Colter’s various talents, he would do well to spread his player’s wealth of talent to several different positions.