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Off-field evaluation, other offensive players will help decide Northwestern's QB competition

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Pat Fitzgerald will consult the team's upperclassmen when making his decision.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — By far the biggest issue facing Northwestern football heading into training camp in 2015 is the quarterback competition. During spring ball, there was no separation in the race to start the Sept. 5 season opener against Stanford, and even if there was, Pat Fitzgerald has not yet, and still might not ever, release that information to the public.

But Fitzgerald explicated a few interesting parts of the process Friday at Big Ten Media Days. There is, of course, the on-field evaluation process, and Fitzgerald said they had "plenty of information from the spring."

There is also an off-field evaluation. Fitzgerald said all three have had good summers "from a leadership standpoint," and that a big question that he and his staff have asked and will ask is, "Who's truly going to be the guy that walks onto the field and makes the other 10 guys on the offense better?"

Interestingly, Fitzgerald also said some senior members of the offense will have a say in who gets the job. "When you've got young men coming back like [Dan] Vitale and [Christian] Jones and [Geoff] Mogus — and I can keep going on and on with some of our seniors — Mick and I will have candid conversations with those guys privately on who they trust the most."

"I think Mick and I do a pretty good job of listening to the team and what they think is best," Fitzgerald continued. "We've used that in the past, and it's been a pretty good indicator."

Fitzgerald said that trust "goes back to the time in the locker room, in the apartments, all the little things that we don't all see that really makes a difference." That, he said, allows a quarterback to go into a huddle on third-and-4 with the complete confidence of the players around him.

As for whether or not the competition could carry into the season, with quarterbacks alternating drives, Fitzgerald said, "I would really prefer that that would not happen. I would prefer that we have some semblance of separation."

When asked about the possibility of a two-QB system, Fitzgerald was noncommittal.

He did have the following to say on the differences between the three quarterbacks:

"Two of the three guys [Clayton Thorson and Matt Alviti] from a skillset standpoint, are very similar. And then Zack [Oliver] is a little bit more traditional. He can run around a little bit, but I don't think he runs as well as Trevor, when Trevor was healthy."

We'll update this with anything Fitzgerald, or Dan Vitale or Christian Jones, say in their afternoon sessions.