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Florida State freshman running back Mario Pender will miss the 2012 season with a severe groin injury, head coach Jimbo Fisher announced Tuesday.
It initially looked like Pender, a Rivals100 running back who enrolled at FSU in January, would work through the groin injury with limited work in fall camp. During his news conference to open fall drills on Monday, Fisher said that Pender was at "50 percent" and would be limited early on.
But on Tuesday, Pender came to practice without a jersey and watched from the sideline. FSU running back Chris Thompson said Tuesday night that Pender's injury dated back to the spring.
Fisher said that he and the team's medical staff consulted with specialists and decided it would be best to have Pender undergo surgery. Pender will redshirt this fall.
"It's something going on in the groin area," Fisher said. "Instead of making it worse, we're going to get it fixed."
Pender was known for his explosive speed at Island Coast High in Cape Coral, Fla., rushing for 1,547 yards and 17 touchdowns on just 130 carries as a senior last season. But despite enrolling early at FSU, Pender was behind a trio of known commodities at tailback - Thompson, James Wilder and Devonta Freeman, who led the team in rushing with 579 yards in 2011.
But there were mild concerns about every FSU running back as camp opened. Thompson and Freeman are both coming off back injuries. Wilder was hampered by off-field issues and spent more than a week in Leon County Jail. All three looked sharp during Tuesday's practice as Pender watched from the sideline.
"I'm glad that the coaches and the trainers finally realized to just go on and do what needed to be done because you never know, maybe today, tomorrow it could have gotten worse," said Thompson, a senior who took the first-team reps at tailback during Tuesday's practice. Thompson recovered from a broken back suffered in October and a broken hand that limited his action in spring. "It's my job as a senior running back to keep the freshmen up, to keep his spirits up.
"I know that he's saying that he's alright right now and I was saying the same thing when I was hurt, but when you really get alone and think about it it's really going to hit him. It all happened for a reason - that's how I like to think about things - and it all may turn out good for him. I hate it happened, but it happened. I'm just going to have to keep him up."
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher Post-Practice (Tuesday)