With Chris Thompson using up the last of his eligibility in 2012, Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles are going to have to shuffle their running back depth chart for next fall. While James Wilder Jr. and Davonte Freeman have made a strong case to be the one-two punch in 2013, the Noles could be looking for a third body to create a three-man rotation and redshirt freshman Mario Pender could be just the man for the job.
Last season, Florida State used a similar three-man rotation before Thompson was lost to injury and it was extremely effective. Thompson was well on his way to setting a new single-season school record for rushing yards before tearing his ACL while still splitting time with Wilder and Freeman. Part of that effectiveness was avoiding getting worn down during game and punishing defenses late in games with fresh legs.
Fisher will look to do the same thing with Pender as the third option next season. After a mediocre spring last year as an early enrollee, Pender sat out his entire true freshman year on campus as he recovered from surgery to repair a sports hernia. The team felt comfortable getting him completely healthy away from football thanks to the depth they had at the position last season.
Now, Pender is healthy and ready to step in and be a major contributor to the Noles’ offense next season. Fisher has raved about the work the young running back has done this offseason and calls Pender his fastest running back after watching him run through offseason workouts. That speed will be a nice change of pace and help the Noles press their advantage on offense.
As Florida State breaks in a new quarterback next season, they will lean on the running game to carry them early. Having a strong third option like Pender will make FSU a formidable force in the ACC.