Apparel and footwear aside, the Wildcats will feature a younger team than in year’s past as they only return five starters on offense and six on defense.
The Wildcats will feature an offense that can score points with the best of them in the conference as quarterback Kain Colter will start his first full season under center. Colter led the team in rushing last season and also played receiver and quarterback.
The versatile quarterback will get a taste of being the premier signal caller this season as Northwestern faces an uphill battle to reach their fifth consecutive bowl game in 2012. The Wildcats will begin the season on the road against a Big East opponent in Syracuse before facing Vanderbilt at home on September 8.
Colter passed for 673 yards last season after spending time watching former Northwestern star Dan Persa, complete his rehabilitation to lead the Wildcats to yet another bowl game. With Colter at the helm this season, the lessons he learned in 2011 will bode well in 2012 for the junior quarterback.
“Dan [Persa] is the smartest quarterback I’ve ever been around [and] the hardest working player I’ve ever been around,” Colter said. “He set the example for me with how he carried himself, kind of the standards that he had so I was able to learn a lot from him, learn how to lead a team. Once he went down, he kind of took me under his wing and showed me how to do things.”
With Colter taking over the starting quarterback duties, it appears that the Wildcats offense won’t miss Persa that much as Colter gives this team the same options of a scrambling quarterback as they did with Persa over the past few seasons.
Colter ran for 654 yards in 13 games last season and has the ability to keep defenders honest in the box with his scrambling efforts. Although Colter was more of a scrambler last season, in 2012 he wants to be more of a pocket passer.
“I think the biggest thing that you have to have is trust in your [offensive] line,” Colter said. “You’ve got to be able to look downfield and actually feel as if you’re protected and not try to scramble to soon. There’s going to be times where you have to scramble and I want to scramble to throw, not scramble to run.”
While Colter was a dynamic threat for the Wildcats last season as a passer and rusher, he also became familiar with the wide receiver position as he had 466 yards on 43 receptions with three touchdowns. Colter of course said that his favorite position to play is quarterback but he did gain more respect for wide receivers and their ability to fight off defenders to get open.
As the 2012 season quickly approaches, the Wildcats look poised to make noise in the conference and Colter understands that it will take a team effort in order for Northwestern to be playing in Indianapolis on Dec. 1.
“I truly believe we can win our division,” Colter said. “We’ve got a lot of talented players around us. I think if you look back to last year, we had an opportunity to win some big time games and we just weren’t consistent enough. We had some pretty big leads [against Michigan and Penn State] and we just blew them, we weren’t consistent enough in the second half and playing four quarters. If we can become consistent and play 60 minutes of football, we’ll be alright.”
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