What Venric Mark’s absence will mean for Northwestern

Daily Sports Staff

With running back Venric Mark transferring, three Daily sports reporters look at what the star’s absence will mean for Northwestern’s offense.


The Wildcats’ offense struggled in 2013, no matter who they faced (well, Illinois excluded), no matter who played quarterback, no matter the game situation. It was a unit “fueled” by short passes and up-the-middle runs. NU learned the hard way that incremental gains only carry you so far. The team desperately lacked even the occasional big play.

At his best, in 2012, Mark was good for at least one huge gain every game, whether on a hand-off, an option pitch or a kick return. Even if a repeat of that performance would have been asking too much, a periodic breakaway would have greatly boosted an offense that could, for the second year in a row, struggle to acquire large chunks of yards at a time.

Just the threat of Mark’s big plays could have helped in 2014. With defenses focusing on shutting Mark down, senior quarterback Trevor Siemian would have had at least marginally more passing lanes to exploit. Opposing teams aren’t likely to respect senior back-up Treyvon Green quite the same way, at least until Green proves himself.

Mark’s absence shifts more responsibility to Siemian, and that may not be a great thing.


By any measure, Mark’s decision to transfer from Northwestern is a huge blow to the football team, and the injury to senior receiver Christian Jones is a bitter icing on that already hard-to-swallow cake.

If last season is any indication, the Wildcats will simply plug what backups they have into their system and hope for the best, which isn’t much cause for optimism given the talent of Mark and Jones. Furthermore, offensive coordinator Mick McCall is neither very aggressive nor very creative. Senior running back Treyvon Green is a capable committee member but probably shouldn’t shoulder the load on his own, and sophomore Stephen Buckley might not be fully healthy for the start of the season, which means unproven sophomore Warren Long and incoming freshman Justin Jackson may be pressed into action sooner than expected.

This unfortunate situation places even more pressure on the arm of senior quarterback Trevor Siemian but it remains to be seen if he can carry the offense on his own the way Kain Colter sometimes did. The outlook isn’t bright, but a good Siemian and a steady defense should still be enough to deliver NU to a winning record and a postseason appearance.


Now that the dust has settled from the sucker punch that was the news of Mark’s transfer, it’s safe to admit that for all his highlight-reel runs and punt returns, Northwestern’s 2014 success was never going to ride on Mark’s shoulders, and the stable of backs behind him is more than capable of stepping in and mitigating the loss of the 2012 All-American.

NU’s offense did not have many great moments last season, but the ones that it did have were rarely Mark’s. Treyvon Green returns to lead the running backs, after averaging a healthy 5.3 yards per carry, and sophomore Stephen Buckley provided an offensive spark, sporting his own 5.3 yards per carry average before a season-ending injury. Behind those two are sophomore Warren Long and two well-regarded freshmen who have been turning heads in training camp, Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault.

With quarterback Kain Colter departed, Mark was never going to be able to fully recreate the zone read success he achieved at the height of his powers. With his slender build and lack of strength between the tackles, Mark was less suited to be in the backfield alongside new starter Trevor Siemian. His loss is a blow, but not one the Wildcats aren’t equipped to handle.

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