Venric Mark is back

Venric Mark looks to make his triumphant return this weekend.

Just when the guys pursuing Venric Mark thought they had him, the running back scampered away.

(Regardless, this entire group probably couldn't tackle him.)

For the first time this season, Northwestern media members were granted an opportunity to speak with Mark. The 2012 All-American, though, darted to his position group meeting.

We could only wait for the interview; we could only take solace in the fact that Mark never disappoints; we stood on the turf practice field for about 35 minutes until being ushered to the most promising interview of 2013.

Venric Mark was back.

Neither Mark nor Pat Fitzgerald explicitly used the term "100 percent" in referring to his status. Fitz went with this instead: "If Venric has a good week, we'll have him at some capacity."

Try great. Mark looked painfully–or maybe not painfully–close to his triumphant return. Four days from NU's biggest game in recent history, Mark showed backfield explosiveness equal to his 2012 self, the one who rushed for 1,366 yards and carried the Wildcats to a 10-win season.

"I've got my mojo back," Mark said on Tuesday. "I'm happy."

Mark said that he suffered his "lower body injury" two days after the beginning of training camp. Although he never reached full strength, the coaches allowed him to play in the season opener against Cal. He gained only 29 yards on 11 carries, yielding to junior running back Treyvon Green—whose excellent first month eased the transition.

"We knew something was up before the [Cal] game," Mark said. "… I told them I wanted to help the team. Who knows if it was the right decision?"

They're 4-0. That's enough.

We can't take anything for granted. Fitzgerald and the coaching staff will watch for any potential setbacks, continuing at tomorrow's practice. ("I'm just taking it day by day," Mark insisted.)

Here are the facts: Mark is almost universally expected to return. He played well as a backfield receiver. He danced between the tackles (a horrible cliché, but it applies to Venric) and made everyone wonder whether he's reached full strength.

Here's the meaning: NU needs Venric Mark to boost its chances of winning against a more talented football team. Mark helps Kain Colter in the zone read game, which could have new life this weekend. And his impact extends beyond Saturday; it's about a Big Ten slate that means more than a single game.

He kept us waiting, and we're okay with that, knowing the payoff could be spectacular.

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