I am going to say something, but I don’t want it to ruin your day: it just doesn’t matter who wins the FSU quarterback battle.
I’d argue FSU’s success this season depends on two guys not named Jameis Winston, Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, or Sean Maguire. FSU’s success this season depends on Bobby Hart and Mario Pender.
So, for all of the talk about quarterbacks, footwork, making reads, three step drops, out and slant patterns, it just doesn’t matter. Part of the reason is that the quarterbacks all seem pretty good, each with their own unique skill set. But in a Jimbo Fisher offense, they aren’t going to be asked to control a game, especially not this year. In fact, the quarterback chosen should be the best at (1) making reads at the line and (2) play action. I fully expect FSU to run this year, a lot, behind a relatively seasoned offensive line. But that’s where Bobby Hart becomes so important.
Bobby Hart played quite a bit in 2011, starting a few games, but was eventually benched. He has resurrected at times, only to disappear again. He may have been thrown into the fire too quickly two years ago, something that possibly derailed his development. This year, FSU’s success on offense will go hand-in-hand with Bobby Hart’s ability to replace Menelik Watson at right tackle.
The story on Hart is that he needed more time to grow–he turned 17 a week before the first game in 2011. Instead of redshirting that year, he was forced to play, and even finished the season as the starter against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl. The problem is, Hart is still pretty young. He’s only 18. He’ll turn 19 right before FSU plays Pittsburgh and is still, arguably, too young. He doesn’t have much choice, however. This will be his 3rd year in the program. The pressure is on him to work hard–nothing else. Menelik Watson didn’t come to FSU with anything else but physical prowess and some natural talent. Rick Trickett is an excellent coach and Bobby Hart has enough to work with — Trickett can mold an excellent lineman out of him. But Hart has to want it. And we need to stay tuned to the practice reports to see how badly Hart wants it.
Whether Hart makes it or not will determine the success of our running game and, specifically, the success of Mario Pender.
Mario is a suburb talent. His Seminoles.com profile is waiting to be updated with numerous accolades–he has, dare I say it, the potential to finally break the 1,000 yard barrier for an FSU running back. Coming out of high school, he was expected to walk on campus and do great things:
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.
He was the 4th rated running back nationally and the 7th rated prospect in Florida. That’s elite. What happened last year was unfortunate. He suffered a sports hernia that sidelined him for the entire season. If you believe everything you read on the message boards, he also failed to fulfill his bargain when it came to off-field obligations and duties (primarily, school). This year, however, Pender has exploded on the scene. In the 4th Quarter Drills, Pender not only excelled, but he exceeded expectations and has proven he can maintain the football and academic workload simultaneously. Playing time for Pender won’t be hard to come by considering his talent. Fisher has no problem, like last year, using a 3 running back committee. It keeps everyone fresh, and hopefully, healthy.
It’s possible we’ve been drinking the garnet flavored Kool-Aid already, but I’m a simple man and I think FSU’s success comes down to two things: (1) solidifying the right tackle position and (2) continuing to develop our running backs. If Bobby Hart and Mario Pender succeed, as they should, FSU will be successful this season and it won’t matter who wins the quarterback battle.