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updated: 8/14/2014 2:49 PM

How will Northwestern replace Mark?

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  • Northwestern running back Venric Mark (5), who was suspended recently, has decided to transfer and play closer to his home in Houston. The Wildcats will have to turn to a young group of running backs to fill the void.

      Northwestern running back Venric Mark (5), who was suspended recently, has decided to transfer and play closer to his home in Houston. The Wildcats will have to turn to a young group of running backs to fill the void.
    Associated Press/file

 
Associated Press

Northwestern running back Venric Mark, who was recently suspended for the first two games of the season, will transfer and wide receiver Christian Jones will miss the season with a knee injury.

Those are two big losses for a team that fell far shy of expectations last year at 5-7 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten.

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The Wildcats were aiming high coming off a 10-win season and their first bowl victory since the 1948 team won the Rose Bowl, but things fell apart after a promising start. Northwestern was 4-0 and leading Ohio State by 10 at home last season, only to bow 40-30 to the Buckeyes and start a seven-game losing streak. The first game is at home against California on Aug. 30.

The Wildcats will have to regroup without Mark. That means Treyvon Green likely becomes the No. 1 tailback. That's not a bad alternative considering Green ran for 736 yards and 5.4 per carry as a junior.

The Wildcats also have sophomore running backs Warren Long (seven games in 2013) and Stephen Buckley (nine games before a leg injury), plus a pair of talented freshmen in Justin Jackson (Glenbard North) and Solomon Vault (Maryland).

Mark, who is from the Houston area, hopes to play closer to his family this season. He missed most of last season with a broken ankle and was granted another year of eligibility. As a junior in 2012, he ran for 1,366 yards and scored 15 touchdowns, including two on punt returns and one receiving. He ranks fourth all-time at Northwestern with 4,271 all-purpose yards.

"Northwestern has been an indescribable experience for me," Mark said in a statement. "It has been my home for four years, and has molded me into the man I am. I'm one class shy of the Northwestern degree I've worked so hard for, and I will graduate. I'm devastated to leave my second home, but life is full of challenges and I've been presented with another one. Right now this is what is best for me and my family."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said Wednesday was a "difficult day" for Northwestern and Mark.

"We love him, and there is no doubt that we're going to miss him as both a person and player. But this is unquestionably what is best for Venric and those closest to him."

Jones was the Wildcats' leading receiver last season with 54 catches for 668 yards and four touchdowns. He was injured in practice on Monday.

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