Former Northwestern Star Venric Mark is Headed to D-2 West Texas A&M

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ESPN.com’s Joe Schad first reported Saturday that former Northwestern running back Venric Mark is headed to Div. II West Texas A&M.

Schad’s report sheds some light on the previously baffling decision of the Wildcats’ most exciting player to leave Northwestern just two weeks before the 2014 season.

VenricMark said he also explored Baylor, Texas State, Houston, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, SMU and Kansas.

— Joe Schad(@schadjoe) August 23, 2014

The desire to be near ailing family members gives context to the cryptic message Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian shared with Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune last week, when Mark’s transfer became public knowledge.

“We’re just praying for him and hoping everything works out,” Siemian said.

Venric Mark was given a two-game suspension earlier in the offseason, albeit a full two months before his transfer. Details of his suspension remain unclear.

Equally unclear is how a waiver for eligibility at a Div. I program might have gone. Other high-profile transfers were granted immediate eligibility in recent years on the basis of family hardships.

Talk of Venric Mark landing with Texas Tech surfaced earlier this week. But also this week, the NCAA denied Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham eligibility at Oklahoma.

Oklahoma applied for a special “run-off” for Green-Beckham, arguing his dismissal from Missouri was beyond the wide receiver’s control.

The process spanned nearly two months, which Mark told Joe Schad he could not afford to lose in his senior season.

NCAA rules preclude FBS transfers with just one year of remaining eligibility from going to FCS programs and playing immediately. Hence, the Div. II route was Mark’s best opportunity to play immediately.

Northwestern finished a disappointing 4-8 in 2013, despite coming into the season harboring realistic Big Ten championship aspirations. Mark’s struggles with injuries contributed to the Wildcats’ struggles.

Northwestern’s offense now faces huge question marks. Not only does it lose Venric Mark, but leading wide receiver Christian Jones was lost for 2014 with a knee injury.

At full strength in 2012, Venric Mark rushed for 1,366 yards with 12 touchdowns. He returned two punts for touchdowns as well.

West Texas A&M is a perennial Div. II contender. The Buffaloes won 11 games in 2013 and are ranked No. 11 in the preseason Div. II poll.

Last season, WTAM averaged more than 46 points per game, employing a wide-open, pass-heavy attack. Mark’s proven rushing ability could add a new dimension to the Buffs attack, and his reliability as a receiver out of the backfield will prove useful in head coach Mike Nesbitt’s scheme.