In his stunning 2012 season, Mark rushed for 1,366 yards–six per carry-and earned first-team All-American punt return honors. We know that story well.
In his return to action last week, the senior even created difficulties for the stout Ohio State defense. He broke off a 41-yard reception and added 60 rushing yards—none of them very easy. The expectations were this: Eased back into action, Mark could regain his old form.
But the injuries are holding him back. Plain and simple.
At the beginning of training camp, Mark suffered a hamstring injury that lingered. The coaching staff allowed him to play against Cal, where he logged only 29 yards on 11 carries. Mark sat out the three games before Ohio State, but appeared to return near full strength.
Then, something else: Mark went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter against Wisconsin and did not return. It's compounded by the fact that he missed time in multiple games last season, with health seemingly a constant concern for the 5-8, 175 lb. running back.
Regardless of the severity, and whether he returns next week, Mark's frequent setbacks are an issue moving forward. Without him on Saturday, the game plan fell to pieces, with NU picking up 44 total yards on 25 carries. Despite a healthy Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy, the Wildcats felt content to abandon its running game, as Steven Goldstein observed earlier.
With Northwestern at 0-2 in conference play and its star running back laboring through injuries, is it possible to save his final year of eligibility via medical redshirt? It's become a relevant question, as the Wildcats face an almost impossible task of reaching the Big Ten Championship game.
Sadly, this has been the case with past NU greats—most recently Dan Persa. Injuries are denting the career of Venric Mark: a hamstring this offseason, an ankle yesterday, a list that even the Big Ten's toughest running back cannot physically fight through.