Northwestern 2014 Spring Ball Preview: Running Backs
By Aaron Morse
The 2013 season didn't exactly go as planned for Northwestern's running backs, to say the least.
As everyone who follows college football knows, Venric Mark missed the majority of the season with a variety of injuries. Luckily for the Wildcats, he received a medical hardship and will return in 2014. Meanwhile, running backs Treyvon Green, Stephen Buckley and even true freshman Warren Long got valuable playing time. Senior Mike Trumpy also received a number of carries but struggled, averaging fewer than four yards per carry and losing a couple of key fumbles.
Cynical Northwestern fans would say that losing Trumpy is really addition by subtraction. The former high school track star was never the same after his ACL injury in 2011. He was averaging 5.2 yards per carry that year. His average dropped to 4.6 ypc in 2012 and in 2013 he averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry.
Next In Line
Long was solid in limited action as a true freshman last year, but the real revelation was young Stephen Buckley. The former high school quarterback averaged 5.3 yards per carry but had his season cut short with an injury against Nebraska. If for some reason seniors Mark or Green aren’t 100 percent, the Wildcats have a great third option in the sophomore Buckley.
Players To Keep An Eye On
It’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on Venric Mark. He’s sort of important. In case you need a reminder. In 2012, Mark ran for 1,366 yards on 226 carries. He scored 12 rushing touchdowns and averaged 105.1 rushing yards per game. Keep an eye on him because he has Heisman upside if the Wildcats win some games. Mark will not participate in spring practice, but he should be 100 percent by the fall.
Needed To Succeed In 2014
The talent is there to succeed at a big-time level in the rushing game. However, it might be the play of quarterback Trevor Siemian that determines how well they do in 2014. If Siemian can’t keep teams honest in the passing game, teams will load up against the run. With Northwestern’s offensive line expected to improve, it will be up to the senior Siemian to perform at a high level so Mark and company can reach their potential.