March 16, 2013
The Florida State football team starts spring practice March 20 and Seminoles.com has you covered with daily looks at each position on the roster. We kick off the final weekend before spring practices with a look at the running backs and fullbacks.
Florida State found a way to make do without Thompson in the last half of the season after the speedy tailback was lost for the year with a torn ACL. But the void left by the loss of his leadership qualities, example setting and big-brother relationship to returning running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. can't be understated.
Freeman and Wilder, Jr. are ultra-talented and should have no trouble in carrying the torch on their own without Thompson on the roster but they won't have that same support system to lean on that had been there for them for the first two years of their FSU careers.
As for Pryor, "Mr. Do it All" will surely be missed in all facets of FSU's offensive attack. Whether he was carrying the football, catching it out of the backfield or helping spring the Freeman-Wilder-Thompson trio the past few years, Pryor was one of the 'Noles' most valuable players because he could literally be used in any situation.
Without Pryor on the roster, Chad Abram's career arc now looks like this: reserve safety to reserve fullback to only fullback on the roster. Abram's ability to become an effective blocker and reliable ball carrier should the situation call for it will be an important development this spring because the Seminoles' will surely want to utilize their talented offensive line and the collective abilities of Freeman, Wilder and Mario Pender in "ground and pound" fashion.
After redshirting last year, Pender figures to add a speed and big-play element to the rotation that the 'Noles lost in the wake of Thompson's exit.
"He's probably faster; he's outright faster [and] a little more explosive," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, when asked how Pender compares to Freeman and Wilder. "But those other two guys now, are pretty good players now. [No.] 8 and [No.] 32 can both tote that rock and be physical and run and have been dependable and played in big games and made big plays. But Pender is very talented young man who hopefully will keep that consistency and play with a lot of consistency.
"... He can hit home runs and he's strong."
Freeman and Wilder both figure to share starting duties this spring and very well could maintain the "1a" and "1b" relationship heading into their respective junior years. For FSU, integrating Pender, developing Abram and avoiding injuries are the top priorities when practices officially kick off Wednesday.