Trevor Siemian fully expects to be Northwestern’s starting quarterback when the Wildcats kick off the 2014 season. And, luckily for him, his coach expects that, too.
“We’re playing Saturday, Trevor’s our quarterback,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the team’s first spring practice Wednesday morning. “He’s won a lot of football games for us here. So I fully expect he’ll have the spring that he’s capable of.”
Fitzgerald went on to mention Siemian’s competitors, including backups Zack Oliver and Matt Alviti, in the sense that they’ll want to compete for the starting quarterback job, too. And Fitzgerald’s main message of the day was that every position is open for competition this far out from the team’s Aug. 30 opener against Cal.
But Siemian has confidence he’ll be the one under center against the Golden Bears, and it’s that confidence — built over four years in the program — that has him ready to embrace a leadership role heading into his senior season.
“I feel like that’s my role. It’s been a long time coming,” Siemian said Wednesday. “Trying to be the best leader I can for these younger guys especially. We’ve got a lot of younger guys that can play, and then we’ve got a good senior group that’s pulling these guys a long. I’m just trying to help out, have fun and get better in the spring.”
Siemian spent the past two seasons splitting time with Kain Colter as part of a two-quarterback system that was at times extremely effective and at others not very effective at all. Injuries had a lot to do with it, but the quarterback position was among many that didn’t work for the Cats last season, when a 10-win team turned into a five-win team with just one conference victory.
With Colter’s graduation from the program, the dual-quarterback system could be out the window, placing an even bigger focus on Siemian. At least that’s what he expects.
How will the offense be different in 2014?
“Hopefully we score more,” Siemian joked before going into a bit more detail. “There won’t be as much option stuff without Kain back there. That was one thing he was pretty good at. The offense is going to be tailored to my strengths or whoever’s strengths are back there playing quarterback. However that may be different, I think that’s the direction we’ll go.”
Various injuries to Colter increased that emphasis on Siemian a year ago, and the passing numbers prove it. He passed for 2,149 yards and 11 touchdowns, both career highs. He ranked eighth in the Big Ten in passing yards.
But there will need to be another facet to Northwestern’s offense, one that will harken back to that 10-win season in 2012. Running back Venric Mark returns for a fifth season after last year was almost completely lost to injuries. The dynamic playmaker, who was an All-America selection as a return man in 2012, figures to provide a huge spark and a huge difference from last season’s troublesome campaign.
And though Mark will sit out spring practice while recovering, the man who looks to be handing Mark the ball is looking forward to getting him back.
“Any time you can get (Mark) back there, it helps the cause for sure,” Siemian said. “We’re excited not to push him too much, but when he’s ready he’ll be good to go. And we’re excited to get him back.”