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Florida State Football Season Preview 2013: Mario Pender

After a red shirt freshman season, Pender looks ready to earn playing time.

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Florida State football kicks off on Labor Day at Pitt. Tomahawk Nation previews the season up until that date by analyzing every key player and issue facing the 2013 Seminoles.

#7 Mario Pender | RS-Freshman | Running Back | 5-10 192

Background via

PERSONAL: 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 ... rated the No. 4 running back nationally, No. 7 prospect in the state of Florida and No. 41 overall prospect nationally by ... rated the No. 28 overall prospect and fifth-best running back by No. 4 running back nationally, No. 5 prospect in the state of Florida and No. 38 overall prospect nationally by Florida State over Alabama, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), USF, Tennessee and West Virginia.

For seven and a half games of the 2012 season, FSU had a home run threat. Chris Thompson's season ending knee injury took away that threat. While James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman are very good, they were not, and are not true home run threats.

Florida State should add the home run threat back to its repertoire with the addition of Mario Pender. Pender, as seen from his ridiculous 11.9 ypc his senior season in high school, is able to take it the distance on any given play.

Many thought that Pender would be able to compete for playing time his freshman season. A groin injury resulted in a red-shirt. Sources indicate that the staff was unhappy with the effort put into the rehab, but that's not exactly the type of thing a school will address on the record. Pender learned that the college game requires a different level of work than high school. As you can see from his spring interview, sitting on the sidelines while his team enjoyed success, provided the proper motivation.

Pender possess the rare ability to cut and accelerate seemingly simultaneously. Being able to cut and move is space is great. Being able to cut and get back to speed in a hurry is what separates good back from great backs. Thompson's ability to do this last year took many by surprise. While Thompson had come close to perfecting this skill, Pender has only showed flashes. As a red shirt freshman, it is something he has time to improve.

Pender's open field moves are not the only part of his game. He has decent size and strength and should be a challenge for cornerbacks and safeties. Look for him to add an extra 5-10 pounds over the course of his career.

How much Pender sees the field this year depends on a couple things. First is his blocking abilitiy. In the pony set (two runningbacks), he needs to be able to block for the other RB on plays where he doesn't get his number called. Second, he needs to be competent in pass protection. He can't be brought in only to run the ball (easy giveaway to defenses).

Pender is also going to battle for playing time against freshman Ryan Green, a four-star true freshman with a similar skill set.

Pender needs to show that he has an understanding of the offense and understands his pass protection responsibilities.This season is about accountability and putting the pieces together off and on the field. It's an important step in his career as he'll be relied upon heavily in 2014 if James Wilder Jr. jumps to the NFL, as many insiders expect.

Mario Pender Interview: April 1 (via Florida State Seminoles)