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Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald says Colter, Siemian in battle for starting QB job

Vanderbilt v Northwestern

Vanderbilt v Northwestern

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Updated: October 19, 2012 6:17AM

At a point in the season when most coaches have locked down their starting lineups, North-
western coach Pat Fitzgerald’s
offensive depth chart is mostly up for grabs.

That includes the quarterback position, where Kain Colter has started each of the first three games before giving way to backup Trevor Siemian.

This is the type of move more commonly seen when a team is struggling, which isn’t the case with the Wildcats (3-0). Fitzgerald said this is his deepest team in his seven seasons as coach and, with the exception of center Brandon Vitabile, left guard Brian Mulroe and left tackle Patrick Ward, said offensive starters will be determined based on how they practice.

Fitzgerald has been adamant about Colter being NU’s starting quarterback but admitted Siemian might end up starting Saturday against South Dakota.

‘‘All these reps we’re having in practice are going to determine who’s going to start and who’s
going to play as we move forward,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the approach we’re taking now offensively. That’s a
really good thing. That’s a really good problem we have. We’ve got good depth, great competition.’’

The two quarterbacks have complemented each other thus far. Colter is the better runner, while Siemian is slower afoot but finds targets downfield more consistently. Neither has thrown an interception, and their efficiency ratings are almost identical.

After numerous breakdowns near the goal line in the Wildcats’ victory Saturday against Boston College, how Colter and Siemian deliver in the red zone during practice this week might determine who starts against South Dakota.

‘‘I want to see both those guys compete from a standpoint of
being able to put the ball in the end zone,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘We’ll see how everything unfolds.’’

Colter is more versatile, having excelled while playing receiver and running back when he wasn’t playing quarterback last season. While it might seem logical to give Siemian the job and move Colter to a utility role, giving NU another playmaker at receiver and running back, there’s plenty of depth at both positions.

Fitzgerald said this is the deepest receiving corps of his tenure, and speedy Venric Mark and
physical Mike Trumpy have been an effective combination at running back.

‘‘I don’t really notice which quarterback is in,’’ receiver Demetrius Fields said. ‘‘Even in the first game, I didn’t know that Trevor was in [on the game-winning drive] until mid-drive. That may have had something to do with me being oblivious, but I have full confidence in both quarterbacks.’’

Regardless of who starts against South Dakota, Fitzgerald has the Wildcats’ attention heading into practice Tuesday. By putting starting jobs on the line, he doesn’t have to worry about a team that has defeated three consecutive BCS opponents losing focus leading up to the game.

‘‘It creates a confidence in the abilities of the players on the field and an overall confidence in the team that we can do big things,’’ Fields said. ‘‘It motivates everybody to play — for the guys in the starting roles to stay on top of their games and for the guys who are close to stay on top of their games because they are that close.’’

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