This is the 18th in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 41 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order.
Mario Pender | 6'0, 190 | Freshman | Running Back
Background (Courtesy school bio)
Explosive four-star running back who possesses the quickness, speed and burst to run both inside or outside and also has great power to run through blocks...selected as a U.S. Army All-American...rushed 130 times for 1,543 yards (11.9 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns as a senior...named first team all-area by the Fort Myers News-Press...named to the Florida Athletic Coaches Association all-district 19 Football Team... earned Associated Press' Class 6A all-state third team honors as a senior...rated the No. 72 player on the ESPNU 150 as well as the No. 8 running back, No. 16 player in the state of Florida and No. 38 player regionally... No. 66 on the Sporting News Top 125 of 2012... rushed for 2,261 yards and 32 touchdowns, averaging 13.87 yards per carry as a junior...has posted times of a 10.61 in the 100 meters and 22 flat in the 200 meters in track ... rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports and a five-star prospect by Scout.com ... rated the No. 4 running back nationally, No. 7 prospect in the state of Florida and No. 41 overall prospect nationally by 247Sports.com ... rated the No. 28 overall prospect and fifth-best running back by Scout.com... No. 4 running back nationally, No. 5 prospect in the state of Florida and No. 38 overall prospect nationally by Rivals.com...selected Florida State over Alabama, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), USF, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Pender's talent is undeniable. He has tremendous speed, good agility, all in a big(ger) package. He was highly recruited by many of the top schools in the Southeast and chose Florida State.
Pender enrolled early, which made Florida State fans very hopeful about the prospects of him being a big contributor as a freshman. This hope was bolstered by a tremendous highlight tape, the subsequent off-season legal troubles of James Wilder Jr., and back injuries to Chris Thompson and Devonta Freeman.
The position was there for Pender to take, but his chances of doing so seem to have faded.
For a young back to play, he must show advanced maturity and work ethic. Those attributes are needed in order to master the offense, particularly the role of blitz picker-upper in pass protection.
I'm not confident that Pender is mature and disciplined enough to do so. I'm also not sure he's healthy, though he has a few weeks to get right physically before fall camp starts. It's the mental part that troubles me.
I am told that he is still plagued by the maturity issues he had throughout high school.
Can Pender get his act together and seize the opportunity presented to him? Absolutely. I'm just not confident it happens in 2012. Not making the most of the first summer before fall camp can't be remedied by a freshman like it might be by a veteran. I'm not sure there's a switch that can be flipped. But players with the physical talent of Pender have a way of proving the experts wrong.