EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern hoped to get through non-league play without needing the services of Venric Mark. The hope has become a reality.
Mark will return Saturday night when No. 16 Northwestern hosts No. 4 Ohio State at Ryan Field. He participated fully in Tuesday morning's practice, playing running back and handling punt returns.
The senior said he suffered a leg injury two days into preseason camp and wasn't 100 percent for the opener against Cal, in which he had 11 carries and a reception, while not handling any returns.
"The coaches asked me before going in there what I wanted," Mark said. "I told them I wanted to help the team. Who knows if it was the right decision or not? All I know is we got the W, we're 4-0 right now, so we're just looking to get another one."
Mark provides a significant boost on special teams, as Northwestern has had only one punt return for six yards in the first four games. He also allows the Wildcats to crank up the zone-read option with quarterback Kain Colter, a huge part of the offense in 2012, especially in the red zone.
The 5-8, 175-pound Mark is an emotional leader who didn't handle sitting out well.
"I'm not the type of individual to get depressed," Mark said, "but I want to get out there, I want to play. That's when I'm the happiest here at Northwestern. The coaches will tell you I've always had a positive attitude, but being on the field, it just brings me a certain feeling. I haven't had that feeling in a while, so I'm just glad to finally feel like I'm back up to par."
Mark called the timing of his return, for the Big Ten opener against a national championship contender, a "reward." Although Mark is back, Northwestern will continue to use its other backs, namely Treyvon Green, who rushed for 404 yards and five touchdowns during Mark's absence.
"It's going to be a good game," he said. "We're gonna be ready, they're gonna be ready, and when it's time to go, it's time to go."