Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.
First up: No. 40 Mario Pender
Position/Class: Running back, redshirt freshman
What he's done: Pender arrived at Florida State more than a year ago as a well regarded tailback prospect with blazing speed and an eye on some early playing time. Unfortunately, a significant groin injury put to rest any hopes of making an impact in 2012. He underwent surgery at the start of fall camp and didn't return to practice until the season had drawn to a close.
Where he's at: In Pender's absence last season, both Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. made strides and enter the fall as the established veterans atop the depth chart and figure to have a firm grasp on the bulk of the carries. Still, Pender's return during spring practice offered glimpses of his potential. He has breakaway speed and he's tough to bring down in space, potentially offering FSU that big-play threat it lost when Chris Thompson's career came to a close last season.
What's to come: Pender remains a work in progress, but what he does well -- his speed and elusiveness, to be specific -- needs no further refinement, meaning he could be a legitimate weapon right away. He still needs to work on some fundamentals, with a focus on pass blocking at the top of the list. But Pender's upside remains remarkably high, and if the past few years have been any indication, Jimbo Fisher's tailback depth will be tested.