Preseason Breakdown: Running Backs

Our position breakdowns continue with an evaluation of the running back situation heading into week one.

Throughout spring, I considered Treyvon Green the fifth-best running back for Northwestern. He looked uncomfortable, kept fumbling and struggled to regain the confidence that defined his true freshman season.

Clearly, Green was ready to contribute when he arrived on campus. Pat Fitzgerald is gearing up to redshirt every single true freshman this season, and despite the added depth in 2013, this reflects his overarching strategy. ("They just aren't mentally ready," he'd say.)

Like that, Green disappeared from the minds of fans. He suffered a terrifying injury last August and then watched his role gradually diminish with the emergence of Venric Mark. That's sufficient reason to lose confidence, right?

All of a sudden, he got it back. It's the "je ne sais quoi" factor. Green reportedly stormed through Kenosha and returned last week to serious reps. I'm of the opinion that NU should spell Venric Mark more often, and that can require two reliable backups. When I saw "Mike Trumpy OR Treyvon Green" on this team's depth chart, it reflected one of the nice stories from fall.

You'd be stunned by some of the flak Green received for his play. The word "scout team" kept popping up when Malin Jones had an excellent start to camp. But Green kept fighting. He'll be a relevant piece to the offense this year, and the odds-on favorite to start in 2014.

We can attribute some of this breakout to the fact that Venric Mark hardly played during training camp. Why bother? He's an All-Big Ten talent and his health is a major priority. Still, Mark led by example, playing intense football whenever possible. In mock punt return situations, he loudly called his invisible blockers off. There's been nothing to suggest any sort of drop-off from Mark.

Mike Trumpy also played well during camp, improving his backfield receiving ability. It's easy to forget that Trumpy almost singlehandedly held off Boston College last season. He's an underrated backup on a team that needs one, if not more. They have three options prepared to take carries.

In the right circumstances, Stephen Buckley could be utilized effectively. He'll play out of the slot and catch passes out of the backfield—a rather trendy move from Mick McCall. College and pro teams alike lean on running backs that primarily serve as pass catchers. I wouldn't be shocked to see zero-carry, four-catch outings from Buckley this year. He's an impressive talent and carried his good spring over to camp. This week of practice should be especially important in gauging his role.

Just a redshirt freshman, Malin Jones earned considerable hype with his all-around skillset. He's a starting candidate next year and is primed to step in for future seasons. Even the latest recruiting class was impactful in early drills, as Xavier Menifield looks the part of an excellent scout team running back.


Venric Mark— Ready for even better.

Treyvon Green— Comeback player of the year?

Mike Trumpy— Healthy, solid backup.

Stephen Buckley— Reasonable slot look.

Malin Jones— Future every-down back for NU.

Depth Chart

1. Venric Mark
2. Mike Trumpy
Treyvon Green

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