After a record-breaking season, there are scores of diminutive running backs striving to look, play and emulate Venric Mark. Thanks to some next-level video editing acumen from Northwestern running backs coach Matt MacPherson, Auston Anderson got the unique experience of seeing himself spliced alongside Mark in real time.
He visited Evanston this weekend with a good sense of the program’s academic stature, the benefits of a cityside location and a mom that’s already bleeding purple; “she wants me to commit there,” Anderson said. What he left with is a refined perspective on the Wildcats offense, and how he sees himself – more specifically his size (5’9’’, 180 pounds) – and his explosive skill set fitting in the Wildcats’ spread attack.
“He juxtaposed my stuff with Venric’s,” Anderson said. “It was really cool. It’s easier for me to see now how I could perform in that offense.”
Before this weekend, Anderson had only delved into the nuances of an option offense via video game controllers. MacPherson explained the system, how it creates mismatches and how Anderson’s breakaway speed and elusiveness are a perfect match for the Wildcats' vision of a spread-savvy back .
Better yet, Anderson got a breakdown from Mark himself.
“Venric told me about all the calls and that stuff,” he said. “I’ve only really seen an option like that on NCAA [video game], but it’s pretty cool.”
On Saturday, Anderson watched the Wildcats conclude spring practice under sporadic snow flurries, and for a kid who’s never experienced snow outside of January or December, you can understand why Anderson might be taken aback.
It didn’t prevent him from moving the Wildcats atop his list of offers, which has long since grown to more than 10 BCS schools, including Arkansas, Stanford, Texas Tech and UCLA.
“As of right now Northwestern is my number one,” he said.
Nothing is set in stone; high-profile recruitments like Anderson’s are fluid situations, constantly evolving with each visit and new tidbit of information. Anderson plans to visit Texas Tech – one of his top three schools, along with Stanford, whose history of recruiting bigger backs gives Anderson pause about joining the Cardinal – this weekend, and hopes to check out other programs this summer.
Until further notice, every school on his list is chasing Northwestern. The Wildcats check all of Anderson’s boxes – good academics, skill-and-size-specific offense, great location, strong team chemistry.
Between now and the beginning of his senior season – Anderson plans to decide on a new school before the Fall – another program will have to not only meet but go above and beyond Northwestern’s assortment of attractive qualities. Or maybe they’re better off making a fancy comparative video. That could work, too.