Florida State Football: Mario Pender Set For A Breakout Season

By Isaiah Clark
Mario Pender
Miami Herald

The Florida State Seminoles boast a bevy of running backs this upcoming season. In fact, this may be the most talented group of running backs they have ever seen.

While Karlos Williams is the clear cut favorite to start, there are three backs right behind him who will do anything they can to garner more carries. There is a very good chance that all four will be getting their opportunity to carry the rock with the way Jimbo Fisher likes to split carries among his backs.

The question is, which one of the backs will shine the most? Your obvious answer is Williams. What he did last season after switching from safety was anything short of magical. His elite speed, power and sheer athleticism make him a special player. There is no doubt if he stays healthy that he will have an opportunity to put himself in contention for the Heisman Trophy, especially running behind that offensive line.

Next, we have sophomore Ryan Green who garnered more carries than expected last season due to all the blowouts. He showed signs of greatness, but also struggled with consistency with his mop-up carries. Also, we can’t forget about highly-touted newcomer Dalvin Cook. He too will look to make an impact when gets the opportunity.

With that being said, I am going in a different direction with my pick, and that’s Mario Pender. You may ask why I would pick someone that has yet to even step foot on the field during a game. Well, let me tell you why he is my candidate for breakout player of the year for the Seminoles.

He was one of the most sought out running backs in the country back in 2012. Some mentioned that he had a very similar skill set as another Southwest Florida native, Noel Devine. Though that may be true in some regards, he is much more physical, stronger and has great breakaway speed. We all know how Devine’s career turned out.

Thanks to an injury freshman year and not qualifying academically last season, he hasn’t gotten an opportunity to showcase his talents. However, he was used heavily on the scout team in preparation for the BCS National Championship game. Fisher and teammates praised him back then, and have nothing but great things to say thus far during practices.

Now, he is back healthy and academics are in check and more focused than ever. This season, he is going to show why he can be groomed into an every-down back. A large part of that is because he runs with great patience, and has the ability to run between the tackles or go off the edge and pull away from defenders.

Pender is a very special talent that needs the ball in his hands whether it’s a handoff, pass or a trick play. Defenders will want to keep tabs on him when he is lined up in the backfield, especially when he is back there with Williams.

Yes, there is plenty of talent in that backfield, all of which will surely contribute to the success of the offense, but besides Williams, I truly expect Pender to make the most of his opportunities. When it’s all said and done, he will be the breakout player of the year for the Seminoles’ offense.

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