Big Ten Football Previews: Northwestern

BY BEN ROSS | AUGUST 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Northwestern Wildcats will bring back a 670-yard passer from last season, and a 650-yard rusher, and a 460-yard receiver. That’s a lot of skill-position talent on paper.

The only problem: It’s all the same person.

Kain Colter heads into the Wildcats’ season as the leading returning player in all three statistics. But he will stick to calling signals at quarterback this season, limiting his versatility. When asked if quarterback was his favorite position, Colter responded immediately.

“Definitely,” he said. “You’re the leader out there on the field. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t like going out there and running a route and maybe playing some running back. It’s always fun, but playing quarterback is the best.”

Colter started the first three games at the position last season as a sophomore in place of an injured Dan Persa. After that, he saw limited action at quarterback but continued to appear for the Wildcats as a runner, racking up 654 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground and hauling in 43 catches for 466 yards and 3 scores through the air.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald echoed the sentiments Colter gave in regards to keeping him at quarterback.

“I put my best player at quarterback,” Fitzgerald said. “That cat’s touching the ball every play. So, yeah, it was easy. I say that, but you can also see the skill set he has. … As we start camp, he’s our starting quarterback, and I’m excited about it.”

Running backs Mike Trumpy and Treyvon Green return to the backfield to help take some pressure off the passing game, which is good, because Colter seems to lack a reliable target.

Demetrius Fields is the leading returning receiver behind Colter, but he had only 32 catches last season. USC transfer Kyle Prater has the potential to have an immediate effect during his first year as a Wildcat. In 2010, ESPN.com listed Prater as the ninth-best receiver recruit in the nation.

Defense might be the side of the ball where Northwestern has problems.

Just one player, sophomore Ibraheim Campbell, returns with any starting experience in the secondary. Ends Tyler Scott and Quentin Williams return as starters, while Collin Ellis and David Nwabuisi could emerge as leaders in the linebacking corps.

Nwabuisi said that inexperience shouldn’t be considered a factor when looking at the Wildcat defense. The inside linebacker said getting back to the basics is way he sees this unit cutting down on the nearly 30 points a game it allowed a year ago.

“There’s a lot of young talent,” he said. “These guys want to get out on the field and play ball like we do. We’re a lot more focused on vocalizing everything. Signaling we got the call, make sure the safeties know we got the call. … We’re just focusing on the little things to make sure we’re on the same page.”

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