After losing four straight games, Northwestern could be headed for a lost season. It's almost certainly a lost season for the Wildcats' best player, running back/returner Venric Mark.
But it might not be Mark's last season with Northwestern.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald said Monday that a redshirt is on the table for Mark, who has appeared in only one full game this season because of several leg injuries. Mark suffered an injury early in preseason camp, had limited carries in the season opener against Cal, didn't return until Oct. 5 against Ohio State and left the following week's game against Wisconsin in the first half with a leg injury.
Mark has missed the past two games and isn't listed on the depth chart for Saturday's game at Nebraska.
He has a redshirt year available, and Fitzgerald has talked with Mark about the possibility of shutting it down for 2013. Mark would be an interesting case for a medical redshirt because he has had several different injuries and played in games midway through the season, but his limited overall participation in games would help his cause. Fitzgerald said he thinks Mark would receive a redshirt if he requests one.
Ultimately, it's Mark's call whether he wants to pursue another year at Northwestern. It would provide a big lift for the Wildcats in 2014, as Mark's explosive speed has been missed this season both on offense and particularly on special teams. Mark earned All-America honors as a punt returner and second-team All-Big Ten honors at running back in 2012.
While he would provide a nice lift for the Wildcats down the stretch if he can get back on the field, he certainly could do more damage in 2014 at 100 percent.