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Doc Five: Top five offensive players poised for a comeback in 2014 - No. 5 - Venric Mark

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.

The San Antonio Spurs suffered an absolutely devastating loss in the 2013 NBA Finals. After taking a 3-2 series lead, the Spurs were up five points and were just 28 seconds away from winning it all in Game 6. Improbably, the Heat came back to win in overtime, forcing Game 7. The Spurs struggled to rebound from the crushing Game 6 defeat, and the Heat prevailed in Game 7 behind 37 points from LeBron James.

It was a different story this year.

In a Final rematch, it took just five games for the Spurs to dominate the Heat and win the franchise’s fifth title in 15 years on Sunday night.

The Spurs’ impressive rebound got us thinking for this week’s Doc Five. What players who suffered considerable setbacks in 2013 could be prime candidates to come back strong in 2014?

We'll start with the offensive side of the ball. 


No. 5 – Venric Mark

Northwestern running back Venric Mark became the 39th player in program history to earn first team All-America honors when he was named the top punt returner in the country in 2012 by the Football Writers Association of America. He averaged 20.1 yards per punt return, nearly four yards better than the country’s second-best returner, and scored on two returns longer than 75 yards.

Mark was no slouch in the ground game either. Mark ran for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns on six yards per carry for the Wildcats, registering eight 100-yard rushing games in the process for the 10-3 Wildcats. He earned a second team All-Big Ten honor from the league coaches and media as a running back.

Mark was primed for an even bigger 2013 campaign until the injury bug hit. Mark suffered what Northwestern called a “lower body injury” in the season opener against Cal. That injury kept him out of action in the next three games against Syracuse, Western Michigan and Maine. Mark gained 60 yards in his return in the Big Ten opener against Ohio State, but then fractured his ankle the following week (October 12) on a goal line carry against Wisconsin.

As a senior, Mark tried desperately to return to the lineup, but the injury was just too severe. Mark then pinned his hopes on an NCAA bylaw that allows players to apply for a medical hardship waiver. If a player does not play in “more than three contests” or “30 percent of the institution’s scheduled or completed constests,” then a hardship can be granted.

Mark met the qualifications and found out in January that he was eligible to return for a fifth season.

He told Big Ten Network’s “The Journey” that his goal is to earn another All-American nod in his redshirt senior season.

“I’m not satisfied. I’m not,” Mark said. “I feel like I need to go out with a bang.”

If Mark can get back to the level of play he showed in 2012, there’s no reason for his expectations not to be sky-high. It had to have been extremely hard watching his team struggle from the sidelines. After starting 4-0, the Wildcats lost seven of eight games down the stretch. His team will surely welcome him back with open arms.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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