Defenses have had fits trying to corral the junior, who can cause headaches at quarterback and receiver.
Northwestern's Kain Colter can line up under center or as a receiver. He can fill the standard quarterback role as a passer. He can scramble for yards or take off on a long designed run.
And still, in his mind, he might not be realizing his full versatile potential as the Wildcats head to TCF Bank Stadium for a date with the Gophers on Saturday.
"That's what makes me unique, and I'm trying to embrace that," he said. "There might be some other ways they could use me."
Um, like, how exactly? It's a fair question, considering the junior is probably the most multifaceted quarterback in a Big Ten full of them. But of course he won't tell. Why give a clue to defenses that are desperately trying to solve him?
The puzzle, barring any new crazy position changes for Colter, consists of the junior field general giving the defense plenty to handle at quarterback -- until suddenly he's not there, with strong-armed sophomore Trevor Siemian in his place, throwing passes to Colter.
Having two quarterbacks with two very different skill sets sounds familiar to Minnesota -- in some ways, Colter and Siemian's skills match those of MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell. But the Gophers generally have one QB or the other on the field. With the Wildcats, things can change, play by play.
"I think it's not only [Colter] but also both quarterbacks, and it's very difficult," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. "Offensively, they're a unit that has been very well designed, very well put together. They know who they are and what they do so it presents a lot of matchup problems and that's what they do with him. It makes it very difficult when a guy lines up in a lot of different places."
Recently, that has been at quarterback in running situations and at receiver for Colter, with Siemian doing most of the passing. Last week in a loss at Penn State, Colter didn't throw a pass; against Indiana the week before, he set records with his 161 rushing yards and nine catches for 131 receiving yards. With Siemian aptly stepping into the passing role, it has made sense. But coach Pat Fitzgerald said Colter is still "absolutely" an option to throw.
Said Tracy Claeys, the Gophers defensive coordinator: "It's not that Colter throws the ball terrible, it's just that by moving him to wide receiver, since they have another quarterback capable of throwing the ball, it upgrades their athletic ability on the field. They don't have three other receivers better than Colter."
And through most of the season, it's given defenses fits. But there is a fine line between shaking things up and straying from the basics, Colter said. Northwestern was undefeated until Penn State scored 22 unanswered points in the final quarter to hand the visiting team its first loss last week.
"We ... tried to get a little too cute," Colter said. "All the things that had been working for us throughout the season, we kind of got away from it."
That doesn't mean Northwestern is done tinkering, though, and neither is Colter, who sees his versatility as a potential ticket to the next level.
"There are guys all over the Big Ten that are able to make plays in a lot of different ways," he said. "You look at [Ohio State's] Braxton Miller, [Michigan's] Denard Robinson, [Nebraska's] Taylor Martinez, all these guys can make plays not only through the air but by running the ball.
"I kind of feel like that's the way it's going right now and I feel like a dual-threat quarterback can really hurt the defense and really silence them."
|Boston - WP: M. Ott||4||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: M. Hoffman||3|
|UC Santa Barbara||38|
|San Diego St||73|
|Utah Valley U||83|
|Cal State Fullerton||56||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||66|
|Sam Houston St||70|
|New Mexico St||70|
|Miss Valley St||68||FINAL|
|(22) Middle Tennessee||69|
|William & Mary||65|
Poll: How many games will the Gophers win in the Big Ten tournament?