Pat Fitzgerald has coached the Northwestern football team since 2006; and while he has a winning record overall (40-36) his teams are 0-4 in bowl game appearances, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas Tech in 2010. This year, Fitzgerald and company will have a new starting quarterback and the type of dynamic talent at wide receiver that Evanston, Illinois has never seen. This could be the year the Wildcats finally breakthrough and get that elusive bowl victory. Here is a look at their top draft-eligible players. Underclassmen are designated with an asterisk…
Kain Colter* WR 6’0 190 – Colter saw action in three games as a freshman in 2010, and played extensively at quarterback in the Ticket City Bowl loss to Texas Tech. Colter passed for just 38 yards in the game, but he picked up 105 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Last year, with Dan Persa still recovering from an Achilles injury, Colter started the Wildcats’ first three games at quarterback, leading the team to a 2-1 record. Once Persa returned, Colter took on a jack-of-all trades role, rushing for 654 yards and nine touchdowns, passing for 669 yards and six touchdowns, and catching 43 passes for 458 yards and three more TDs. Now a junior, Colter will begin the season as the team’s starting quarterback and he doesn’t appear to have any immediate competition. Colter’s an excellent athlete, so his presence under center will almost certainly help the Northwestern attack. However given his relatively small stature and overall athleticism, his future probably lies at receiver. He has two years of eligibility left and is likely to remain in school beyond this season.
Kyle Prater* WR 6’5 215 – The top recruit in the country at receiver and the third rated recruit overall, Prater enrolled at USC and took a redshirt for the 2010 season. In 2011 he caught just one pass for six yards before opting to transfer closer to his hometown of Hillside, Illinois after the season. Prater has been granted a special waiver by the NCAA, so he won’t have to sit out the 2012 season. Instead he’s expected to be a key cog in Wildcats’ offensive attack right off the bat. Prater has tremendous size for a receiver, speed in the 4.5 second range, and a reputation as a hard worker. With any luck he’ll become a major contributor and the type of high quality, NFL-caliber player rarely seen in a Northwestern uniform.
Also keep an eye on: Quentin Williams DE 6’4 255, Brian Arnfelt DT 6’4 300, Patrick Ward OT 6’7 310