Aug 31, 2013; Berkeley, CA, USA; Northwestern Wildcats running back Venric Mark (5) warms up before the game against the California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Ohio State vs. Northwestern is usually not a nationally cared about Big Ten matchup, but it’s got some huge implications in 2013 as Northwestern tries to improve upon their undefeated 4-0 record and 16th overall national ranking.
Northwestern is a program that has really risen in recent years, and they actually have a pretty good shot against the 4th ranked Buckeyes. A huge boost for the Wildcats will be the return of their top prospect, running back Venric Mark. Of course, the top prospect can change throughout the course of the year, but Pat Fitzgerald’s crew will welcome back with open arms the young man who had over 1,300 yards as a junior.
For Ohio State, the key is going to be maintaining the status quo offensively. The Buckeyes have been one of the best in the country dating back to last season at running the ball, both from the QB and RB positions.
Their top prospect this year is still a title that’s up for grabs, but the player generating the most hype is certainly junior QB Braxton Miller.
I don’t think Miller is going to leave early for the NFL, but depending on how the season ends up, it might not be a terrible idea. Ohio State has Kenny Guiton waiting to take the field, and Miller is in his third year of starting. I don’t know that he’s shown enough to NFL scouts to warrant a high enough pick, so that’s why I think it’s unlikely. However, there’s always a chance and there’s a lot of season left for him to decide. Here are my top Ohio State prospects to watch for this game:
Northwestern doesn’t have as much top NFL talent as Ohio State, but they certainly have some interesting prospects. Here are the guys you’ll want to keep an eye on:
Venric Mark, RB
Kain Coulter, QB/WR
Tyler Scott, DE
Jeff Budzien, K
Ibraheim Campbell, DB (JR)
Treyvon Green, RB (JR)
Tony Jones, WR (JR)
Here’s a sample scouting report that we have for Northwestern RB Venric Mark:
5 RB Venric Mark (5’8″ 175 pounds SENIOR)
They say big things often come in small packages…or something like that. Whatever the corny phrase, it’s true for little Venric Mark, who is small in stature but packs a huge punch as a playmaker. He will have questions about durability as he enters into the NFL in 2014, as well as whether or not he can hold up at his size at the RB position going forward. But the fact remains, Mark had a dominant breakout season in the Big Ten last year as a running back, a conference that is certainly not known for having a bunch of skinny kids who aren’t tough. The Big Ten has a reputation for being big, strong, and blue collar, and Mark was absolutely dominant as a junior, on his way to All-Conference honors.
Mark can get swallowed up in the backfield due to his size, but when he hits the open field, there aren’t many more players in the country who are as elusive and explosive as he is. Rushed for over 1,300 yards as a junior with a YPC average of over six, and had 12 touchdowns on the ground. Also caught 20 passes for 104 yards and one TD, figures that could very well increase now that he’s established himself as a star in this Northwestern offense. Averaged nearly 19 yards per punt return on 15 returns last season, and had two touchdowns. Also had 416 kick return yards, and is really one of the most exciting all-purpose backs in college football right now.
Because of his ability to be a special teams ace, Venric Mark will make an NFL roster right away and could be used as a weapon offensively as well. I am just blown away by his ability to reach the second and third level of defense with such urgency. He’s not going to be an overly effective between the tackles runner, but he probably doesn’t need to be all the time. He could stand to add some muscle to his frame, but without losing his speed or quickness. I really like this player a lot. I think he’s flying way too far under the radar right now.