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Northwestern football’s offense a story of split identities

Indianv Northwestern

Indiana v Northwestern

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Updated: August 27, 2013 6:40AM

Among the most exciting parts of Northwestern’s high-octane offense is senior Kain Colter’s ability to play nearly every skill position.

Colter, who’s listed as a quarterback, began playing receiver in high school when a shoulder injury temporarily prevented him from throwing. It seemed only logical for the Wildcats to play him at both positions to make their offense more dynamic.

So successful were they in moving Colter around that they seem intent doing so with their other offensive personnel this season. The offense has become so multidimensional that players are now required to know multiple positions.

‘‘As a team, that’s kind of our mentality,’’ Colter said. ‘‘So there’s going to be times where [senior running back] Venric [Mark] is going to be asked to line up at slot or he might be asked to do something different.’’

It isn’t some sort of gimmick. Colter showed that last season in NU’s 44-29 win over Indiana when he ran for 161 yards and had nine receptions for 131 yards.

Mark, an All-American as a returner last season, has proved to have the same type of athletic ability. The goal in moving him around is to get him in situations where he make plays in the open field and uses his speed. Last season, he scored a total of 15 touchdowns in the running, receiving and return games.

‘‘That’s definitely a big hallmark [of the offense], guys being able to line up in different spots, because that’s what keeps defenses on their toes,’’ Mark said. ‘‘I practice at many positions, and I’m going to continue to do that, and that’s going to continue to be our game plan.’’

Ultimately, the more players who can play in multiple spots, the more difficult it will be for opponents. Northwestern already causes chaos with its no-huddle offense. When the Wildcats move players around, that can negate any game-planning defensive coordinators have done.

‘‘We’ve been doing it for such a long time that people are ready,’’ Colter said. ‘‘When they ask you to do something that you’re not ready for, guys are ready to accept the challenge and fully embrace it.’’

‘‘It makes me unique. A lot of guys really haven’t been able to do it in the past, and it’s something that I’ve had some pretty good success at, so I do take pride in it.’’

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