News just broke that Northwestern's two best skill position players (by a country mile) will be unavailable for the 'Cats in 2014.
#Northwestern announces Venric Mark will transfer. Wow.— Inside Northwestern (@insidenu) August 13, 2014
Also, Christian Jones, #Northwestern's top receiver, will miss the whole season with an injury. He's a senior and can redshirt.— Inside Northwestern (@insidenu) August 13, 2014
Frankly, this is massive news and great for the Illini, though sad for Northwestern. Their offense's centerpiece, Venric Mark, is transferring to be closer to home. Reportedly, the coaches were not at all expecting him to transfer before he broke the news to them today. It has also been reported that this was not related to Mark's two-game suspension, recently handed out for a violation of team rules.
NW also announced that Christian Jones, Northwestern's top wide receiver, will be missing the entire season with a knee injury. It's tough to see that happen to a talented player like Jones, who was set to have a solid senior year in 2014. He will likely redshirt and return to the field in 2015. It may be time for former highly-touted recruit and USC transfer Kyle Prater to step up and take a starting role in the receiving corps. Based on what we've seen so far of Prater, that's not good news for the Wildcats.
As for the Illini take on this, it's good news as previously mentioned. The Northwestern offense should still be okay, but there is certainly a drop-off from Mark and Jones to the second stringers. Maybe that means a few more stops for the Illini defense in November, and maybe that means a win and a bowl game.
For more comprehensive coverage of Northwestern's situation, be sure to check out SBNation's Wildcats site at Inside NU.