Northwestern missed electric running back Venric Mark for the majority of the 2013 season due to an ankle injury, and head coach Pat Fitzgerald was looking forward to having him return to the backfield in 2014.
But now, the Wildcats will have to wait a few games longer to get their former All-American back.
NU announced on Friday that the redshirt senior has been suspended for the first two games of the season for a violation of team policy.
Mark released a statement through NU about the suspension:
"I made a mistake and am prepared to deal with the consequences of that," said Mark. "There's no one that holds me to a higher standard than the one I hold myself to, so nobody is more disappointed than I am. First and foremost, I feel like I let my teammates down, and that feels the worst. I'm grateful to have another season to compete with this team. My focus moving forward is on working as hard as I can in camp and supporting my teammates in practice and on gamedays so that we can achieve our goals this season."
The Wildcats open the season at home against the California Golden Bears in what figures to be an offensive shootout. The following week the Northern Illinois Huskies come to Evanston with their NCAA-leading 15-game true road game win streak.
At media day, Fitzgerald was praising the depth at the running back position. Senior running back Treyvon Green will most likely fill the void left by Mark in the first two games while sophomores Warren Long and Stephen Buckley (if fully recovered from his knee injury) will get some carries as well.
Mark broke out onto the national stage in 2012 when he rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns and was named to the All-American team as a punt returner.