NU Position Capsule: Running Back

After a breakout season, it's no secret that Venric Mark will be Northwestern's feature back. But who else will see carries for the Wildcats' dynamic offense? PurpleWildcats gives a detailed look at the tailback position.

He's back— Venric Mark was very much unknown before earning Northwestern's starting tailback job. He ended the season with 1,366 yards, 12 touchdowns, and All-American honors. Not a bad first season on the job.

Once again, Northwestern's offense will revolve around Mark, a senior in 2013. The speedster makes the Wildcats' other skill players more dynamic when he's on the field—namely starting quarterback Kain Colter. Mark proved he can run between the tackles as well as to the outside. The most important factor, though, is his elusiveness, allowing him to bounce to the next level.

With Mark's smaller frame, Northwestern must limit his carries considerably from the 17.4 carries per game in 2012; otherwise, his injury risk will stand very high. It could be another big season for Venric Mark.

The stable of horses— Different from 2012, it is essential to develop a rotation at running back, limiting the carries of Mark. The backup plan at running back was senior Mike Trumpy and junior Treyvon Green. Both need to see more carries next year—if for anything, to protect Mark.

Trumpy has battled a number of injuries throughout his career, but finished 2012 with a streak of good fortunes. He can only hope that continues into his final season. Trumpy brings great open-field speed and big-play abilities to the field. He will need to assume a greater role.

As for Green, his sophomore season started with a scare, when a blow toward his upper body left him without movement in an August practice. He would return to practice two weeks later. Whether it was due to the injury, a limited role, or a combination of both, Green never was comfortable on the field. He can hope for a better run next year.

Keep an eye on— Coach Pat Fitzgerald often points to the "Last-Guy Syndrome," referring to the final commitment of each recruiting class. In 2012, that was two-way standout Stephen Buckley, a product of Forney (TX) High School. It was widely speculated what role the versatile athlete would take on. He would assume the role of running back.

As a member of the practice squad, Buckley impressed the coaching staff, showing his tremendous speed and dynamic playmaking abilities. He looked like a natural running back. Buckley could see a role in the rotation next season; if not, then in the near future.

Also, if redshirted freshman Malin Jones can stay healthy, the young tailback can make an impact next season, too.

Entering the fold— Northwestern will welcome four recruits with running back experience in high school, but it's likely just two, Xavier Menifield and Warren Long, will join the group. Both are similarly-gifted prospects from California, bringing great speed to the position.

Prediction— Venric Mark will have another big year. OK, that's not very bold, is it? I'll add to it, then; second-year backs Stephen Buckley and Malin Jones will see many carries in a secondary role. Both are tested after a year of learning, and ready to make an impact.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats. He resides on Chicago's north side.
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