Update August 13, 9:23 p.m.: Venric Mark announced that he will transfer from Northwestern.
It’s old news that senior runningback Venric Mark has been suspended for the first two games of the season because of “a violation of team rules.” The 2012 All-American punt returner was looking to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2013 season and lead the Wildcats back to a bowl game.
But he’ll have to wait at least two more games.
“There’s no one that holds me to a higher standard than the one I hold myself to, so nobody is more disappointed than I am,” Mark said in an official statement. “First and foremost, I feel like I let my teammates down, and that feels the worst. I’m grateful to have another season to compete with this team. My focus moving forward is on working as hard as I can in camp and supporting my teammates in practice and on gamedays so that we can achieve our goals this season.”
Those ‘Cats will have to do it without one of their most talented and experienced players for the games against California and Northern Illinois. Here’s a quick breakdown of the suspension:
What it means to fans: Obviously, when he’s healthy, Mark is one of the most explosive guys on the field. As a returner and runningback in 2012, he had 2,166 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. He simply makes the games more exciting. Without him in most of 2014, the offense often had trouble finishing games, leading to the seven-game losing streak that erased all hopes for a bowl berth.
What it means to the team: There are two ways to approach this question. Off the field, he brings a level of experience and leadership that few, if any, other players have. He will be sorely most missed in this regard. But on the field, the ‘Cats are actually very deep at the runningback position. Last year, Trayvon Green picked up much of the slack and was complemented by runningbacks Stephen Buckley, Warren Long and superback Mike Trumpy. While Mark was out, scoring points was not normally the issue for the 2013 Wildcats. He played in only three games in 2013, but Northwestern scored 30 or more points on four different occasions without him. The biggest issue was the defense, which could only hold opponents under 20 points twice and averaged 27.1 points against per game.
What it means overall: Though he will definitely be missed, he is only gone for two games. The team played almost all of last year without him, and Green is no slouch himself. He, Buckley, Long and superback Dan Vitale will pick up the slack. Mark will miss no conference games, and the team will be okay. California and Northern Illinois are not given W’s, but if there was a two-game stretch to miss, those would be the two. Just get excited for Mark’s now even-more-long-awaited return Sept. 20 against Western Illinois.