In last year’s national championship season, the Florida State Seminoles boasted tremendous depth at running back, as Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr., and Karlos Williams led the ‘Noles to a 14-0 record. With Freeman and Wilder declaring for the NFL draft, FSU entered spring practice with a clear-cut starting running back and a sizable field of others competing for carries as well. Half of that remains accurate.
Williams is still in line to be the featured back for the Seminoles, but injuries have taken an undeniable toll on the rest of the running back corps this spring. Coveted freshman Dalvin Cook went down with a shoulder injury. Promising sophomore Ryan Green followed suit.
Remaining is the highly touted Mario Pender, who sat out the 2012 season with a groin injury and was academically ineligible last year, making him one of the more important — yet unproven — players on the FSU roster. Pender had some hamstring issues earlier this spring, but head coach Jimbo Fisher spoke highly of him after today’s practice, confirming that he is participating at full speed:
He ran the ball really well. He has a lot of juice. He is 195 pounds but he is strong. He is a really good tackle-to-tackle runner. I like him. When he sticks his foot, he runs violent. He has explosion. He is a really good goal-line runner. You think since he’s not a big guy but he is a really good goal-line runner. He has the knack to sink that pad and get under you. He is strong so he can create leverage on the goal line. Plus when he gets to the edge you aren’t going to catch him.
Not to be forgotten, sophomore Freddie Stevenson, who played in 12 games last year primarily as a fullback, also drew Fisher’s praise:
I’ve been very pleased. Freddie can run the ball. If you put Freddie back there on the goal line at tailback, he is extremely natural running the ball. He is a heavy runner. Since we are so nicked up, we are having to play him as a tailback, and I like what I see out of him, not only as a fullback but as a big tailback. The man can catch the ball, and he is a good pass blocker. He is a very talented guy.
The good news for the Seminoles is that all of the aforementioned injured RBs are currently on track to be ready for the season. The lack of reps, given their inexperience, will be a significant storyline moving forward.