Venric Mark injury: Wildcats RB off Northwestern's depth chart, what's up?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Venric Mark is Northwestern's best running back, but we have no idea how injured he is -- or if we'll ever see him again at full strength in a Wildcats' uniform.

Northwestern has released its depth chart for Iowa, and for the first time in 2013, Venric Mark isn't on it. He's replaced by Mike Trumpy OR Treyvon Green, with Stephen Buckley cracking the depth chart for the first time as the backup.

With regards to Iowa, that means this:

Mark's injuries have been a conundrum all season long. He entered the season-opener with an apparent hamstring injury, but tried to give it a go, and mustered just 29 yards on 11 carries. He'd sit out three games after being listed as "questionable" before each, and then managed 60 yards on 17 carries against Ohio State, although he only took two carries after halftime while NU's lead dwindled in an eventual loss. He then injured himself against Wisconsin, having to leave the game after just three carries for eight yards.

Teddy Greenstein wrote that the injury might have been a fractured leg. We actually don't know: all we've heard is "ankle." Northwestern has been, and will continue to be, relatively secretive otherwise.

You might wonder the rules with regards to medical redshirt, so that the Wildcats might have one more year of the sparkplug RB: technically, Mark qualifies, having played less than 30 percent of his team's games, and none more than halfway through the season. However, he'd have to have a season-ending injury to receive one -- not just something nagging. Drew Crawford's shoulder surgery qualified, because it ended his ability to play for the year. If redshirting was to be a thing, we'd hear about it sooner rather than later.

If Mark is merely hampered, it's disappointing. He never took a redshirt year as a freshman, but Northwestern didn't realize how talented he was out of the backfield until his junior year after a few years of oddly splitting the 5'9 Mark out wide. That meant that we've gotten one full season of Venric Mark, incredible running back, and now this semi-year of injuries and disappointments. It would be nice to give him another full year, and considering his NFL draft stock is not particularly high, I imagine he'd be down with that too. But it doesn't seem in the cards.

As for the running back situation, it's been weird without him. NU's running game was heavily dependent on Kain Colter and Venric doing the option thing, and there's not as much room for straightforward running. Against Minnesota, Stephen Buckley looked nice in the most prolonged outing of his career -- 58 yards on nine carries and a TD. Treyvon Green hasn't gotten more than 10 carries since putting up 158 yards against Western Michigan, and had only 34 yards on 3.8 per carry this past week. Mike Trumpy is a serviceable third-down back because of his skills catching and pass protecting but I'm not sure he's much more than that.

And so we're stuck, wondering if this team has a running back or if we'll ever see our best one at full strength again.

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