Northwestern is 4-0 heading into Saturday's game against Indiana, and the Wildcats are looking to make a move in the Big Ten.
Quarterback Kain Colter moved all over the field last year but now is entrenched as the starting quarterback. The junior also doesn't mind relinquishing some snaps to backup Trevor Siemian, as the Wildcats have successfully employed a two-quarterback system at times. I recently caught up with Colter for our Friday Q&A segment:
You guys are 4-0. What's the feeling around the team like right now?
Kain Colter: We're excited about it. This is what we expected too, a goal that we set to start out fast and win all of our nonconference games, and we were able to do that. So we feel pretty good, but we've got a long way to go and we're just going to keep working, keep trying to rack up these W's.
Talking to some of your teammates this season, a big theme has been the chemistry of this team. Where did that come from, and is this an unusually close team?
KC: I think every class, top to bottom -- juniors, sophomores, seniors, freshmen -- we all hang out with each other and we all have a good bond with each other. Being here in the summer, I think that helps a lot. I think we brought in the entire freshman class this summer, and we were always having summer workouts. Throughout that time, a lot of the guys were hanging out with each other outside of football. And I think that's the biggest thing. You're going to play a lot harder for guys you've built a relationship with and that you're friends with, and everybody on this team is friends with each other and they're close with each other. They want to do the best job they can for each other. I think that's the biggest thing we developed in this offseason.
The offense has shown an improved running game. Where would you say the offense is overall right now?
KC: We've had two pretty good games these past two games, but the thing is we haven't played our best on offense by any means yet. We have a long way to go. We have been running the ball pretty efficiently, but we've just got to bring this pass game along, and that's something we've been working at. It's something that's going to develop. We've got a talented group on offense. That's the encouraging thing: We've got four W's and have put some points on the board, but we still haven't played our best offensive game. Once we put that together, I feel like this offense is going to be pretty hard to stop.
How have you and Trevor been able to successfully manage the two-quarterback system, when that can sometimes be a distraction?
KC: Trevor and I came in together, and in my eyes we're both really good quarterbacks, and we complement each other really well. Trev does some things that I can't do, and I'm able to do some things that Trev can't do. We're able to give the offense a different dimension when one of us is in the game at different times. It's been great. The thing is, the whole team has confidence in both of us. A lot of times, when a second-string guy would have to go in the game, maybe there's not full trust there. But we've both proven that we can get the job done in big-time situations. The team has confidence in us, the coaches have confidence in us and it's been great so far. Sometimes it is tough to have a rotating system at quarterback, but I felt like we've dealt with it very well.
Do you usually know when the other is coming in, or does that happen on the fly?
KC: There have been times this year where I've gotten banged up a little bit and there's been a sudden change. Trev's playing well at that point and goes in. There will be a series where I come off the sidelines, maybe we just scored, and Coach is like, "I'm going to let Trev get going a little bit on this series and I'll put you right back in." You never know. You've got to be ready to go in when your name is called and we've done a good job. We're 4-0, so nobody can complain.
You told the coaches that Trevor should guide the final drive in the opener at Syracuse. Pat Fitzgerald called that one of the most unselfish things he'd ever seen. How were you able to put your ego aside and do that?
KC: A lot of people talk about it being unselfish. You know, really, I was just trying not to be stupid. I had some bruised ribs and a couple of other injuries, and I couldn't throw the ball with the velocity that I wanted. It was coming down to the two-minute drill, and you've got to throw the ball down the field. I had to swallow my pride and say I'm probably not going to be able to make these throws that I need to make at this point and time. I knew Trev could, and he went in there and did. So it was a good decision. If I was healthy, I definitely would have taken that drive. But I had to make that call, and it worked out.
How would you say your development as a quarterback is going?
KC: It's been OK. I have a lot to improve on. Every game you watch, you see some good things and you see some bad things. I've got this saying, "Nothing's as good as it seems and nothing's as bad as it seems." So you learn things you can change every day. I've got a long way to go at quarterback and it's going to be a process. But I'm 5-1 as a starter, so I'm happy about that, and I think the biggest thing is I'm not turning the ball over. I'm giving my team a chance to win, and that's one huge part of being a quarterback.
You're from Denver, which is not exactly Big Ten country. How did you end up at Northwestern?
KC: I looked at a lot of schools. My parents always wanted me to go to an institution that has great academics, and obviously Northwestern has that. My offensive coordinator at Northwestern, his brother was actually the AD at my high school. So I think that's where they heard about me, and we were able to develop that relationship. I was actually committed to Stanford and ended up decommitting from Stanford and decided to come here. It's been a great decision.
You hurt your shoulder your senior year of high school. How did that affect your recruitment?
KC: That's what happened with Stanford. I blew out my throwing shoulder and didn't really know if I was going to be able to throw the ball again as well as I wanted to or even play quarterback again. Northwestern said they were going to stick with me and give me a shot at quarterback no matter what happened. That was one huge deciding factor. I was able to rehab my shoulder to the point where I'm able to make some throws and do some things. Northwestern stuck with me, and I feel good about that.
Your dad, Spencer, played on the 1990 Colorado national title team. Does he ever brag about that?
KC: Yeah, he does. I've got a big football family. My dad played on a national championship team and also has a bunch of conference titles. My uncle played for USC and was a two-time All-American and got all these Rose Bowl wins. So I always get to see their rings and trophies and accolades and things that they've got. I'm trying to make a name for myself and get some of those for me. Hopefully I'll be able to do that during my time here at Northwestern, so I've got kind of a lot to try and build up to. Those guys set a pretty good example.
Your first name is Theodis. Have you always gone by Kain?
KC: My mom calls me Theodis when I'm in trouble. But ever since I was little, they called me Kain. My mom goes by her middle name, so that might be where it came from. But I like the name Theodis, too. Some people call me that.
Finally, you play Indiana this week. You've played some good teams already, but is there a different feeling going into conference play?
KC: We feel good about the foundation we started with. But at the same time, going into conference play we know it's almost a totally different season. None of those games really matter as we go into conference play. We want to do well in this Legends Division, and our goal is to win the conference. We know it's a totally new season and we can't feel too good about what we've done with these four wins so far. We've got to take the outlook like it's 0-0, and we're just going to go try and win this first conference game. We definitely feel a little more hype going into it, and we want to make a statement in our league. So there's excitement, we're all anxious and I think we're ready for the challenge.