The question of the week -- how healthy are Kain Colter and Venric Mark -- will remain unanswered, with both staying in their starting spots per Pat Fitzgerald's official word.
Both players are considered day-to-day, and that's all we'll hear as the No. 22 Wildcats prepare to take on Syracuse. And although that's frustrating, we're fine with it. The stink of it is that Mark was clearly banged up all week last week in practice, but that those around the program made sure word wouldn't leak out so Cal wouldn't know they might not be dealing with Northwestern's star running back at full strength. If being secretive about the extent of each player's injury is helpful, I'm all for Northwestern being secretive.
What Northwestern fans should distinctly not be fine with is the prospect of either player spending a lot of time out of the lineup or at less than full strength. We're not getting any real idea of what the injury is to either player -- "upper-body" for Colter (read: concussion) and "lower-body" (read: AHHHHHH.) Like we wrote yesterday, Trevor Siemian and Treyvon Green were spectacular in backup roles against Cal, but they're backups for a reason. Mark and Colter are unique talents that force Northwestern's opponents to stop an option attack that is very difficult to stop. If you have dreams for the 2013 Wildcats, they feature Mark and Colter.
Hopefully rest allows both players to cycle back to full health, and all we have to do is wait. Luckily, this is a stretch of the schedule where rest is acceptable -- it's a nice progressing scale down of skill level from Syracuse to Western Michigan to Maine to bye week before Ohio State -- but, then again, we're coming off a stretch of the schedule where there were no games for nine months, so it's disappointing to already be dealing with two key players dinged up.
Here's a look at the depth chart for the Syracuse game.
(Sr.)||13 Trevor Siemian (Jr.)|
|RB||5(Sr.)||32 Treyvon Green (Jr.)(Sr.) or 22|
|WR-X||6 Tony Jones (Jr.)||11 Pierre Youngblood-Ary (So.)|
(Sr.)||12 Cermak Bland (So)|
|WR-Z||17 Rashad Lawrence (Sr.)||19 Cameron Dickerson (So.)|
|WR-H||14(Jr.)||82 Andrew Scanlan (Fr.)|
|LG||53(So.)||73 Adam DePietro (Fr.)|
|C||65 Brandon Vitabile (Jr.)||57 Matt Frazier (So.)|
|RG||64 Ian Park (Fr.)||65 Hayden Baker (Jr.)|
|FIRST TEAM||SECOND TEAM|
|DT||67(Jr.)||90 C.J. Robbins (So.)|
|DT||99 Chance Carter(Jr.)||90(Sr.)|
|DE||94(So.) OR||98 Deonte Gibson (So.)|
|SLB||45(Jr.)||42 Joseph Jones (Fr.)|
|MLB||46 Damien Proby (Sr.)||50 Timmy Vernon (Sr.) or 51 Jaylen Prater (Fr.)|
|WLB||44(Jr.)||55 Drew Smith (So.)|
|S||24 Ibraheim Campbell (Jr.)||16 Davion Fleming (Sr.) or 26 Terrance Brown (Fr.0|
|CB||2 Dwight White (Fr.)||27 Matthew Harris (Fr.)|
|FIRST TEAM||SECOND TEAM|
|K (FG)||37 Jeff Budzien (Sr.)|
|KO||37 Jeff Budzien (Sr.)|
|PR||6(Jr.)||5 Venric Mark (Sr.)|
|KR||5(Sr.)||8 Stephen Buckley (Fr.)|
Now that we've talked about the two changes that didn't happen, let's talk about the few that did.
With the Daniel Jones injury, Dwight White moves into the starting lineup. Gulp. True freshman Matthew Harris, who played one (1) snap Saturday on special teams, is now listed as Nick VanHoose's backup, which, oh man.
After Kyle Prater and Mike McHugh missed last game with injury, neither player is on the depth chart as a backup X receiver. Pierre Youngblood-Ary is, which is nice to see after he earned praise in camp.
Although Mark's position as the starting RB is unchanged, there are tweaks to special teams roles on the depth chart. Tony Jones is now listed as the starting punt returner, and Stephen Buckley is listed as the starting kickoff man after handling those duties Saturday night. This is particularly unencouraging. Although it's important Mark's role be limited so he can stay healthy, he's absolutely dynamic as a return man, and that helped Northwestern time and time again. We hyped up NU's special teams in the offseason, and an enormous part of that was having possibly the best punt returner in the country and a damn good guy on kickoffs as well. Buckley didn't show anything on his three returns Saturday, and Jones didn't opt to return any punts.
Again, like we said, all we can hope is for Mark and Colter to bide their time and get up to speed, but, gameplanning for life without them isn't enjoyable.
More from Sippin' On Purple:
- Daniel Jones injury: Northwestern Wildcats CB out for season after injury vs. Cal
- Northwestern vs. Cal: Collin Ellis' monster game proves I am a smartypants/genius and that you should read everything I say
- Northwestern vs. Cal: Heroic Wildcats shoot down hippie Bears
- Northwestern vs. Cal: Trevor Siemian, Treyvon Green pick up with Kain Colter, Venric Mark injured
- From the Stands: Northwestern 44, Cal 30