Spring Sneak Peek: Running Backs

Noles247 and the Osceola take a look ahead at Florida State's running backs heading into spring football.

Devonta Freeman rushed for 660 yards a year ago.

Starters lost: RB Chris Thompson, FB Lonnie Pryor

Reserves lost: FB Debrale Smiley

Returning starter: Devonta Freeman (Jr.)

In the mix:RB James Wilder (Jr.), RB Mario Pender (RFr.) Chad Abram (Sr.)

See ya in the summer: RB Ryan Green

Did you know? Chris Thompson played in eight games before tearing his ACL against Miami. Sophomores Devonta Freeman and James Wilder filled in admirably in Thompson's stead, but, even with an extra six games of action, neither were able to eclipse Thompson's seven-plus game rushing yardage total. Thompson finished with 687 yards (7.5 YPC), Freeman added 660 yards (5.9) and Wilder contributed 635 (5.8).

The big question: What will Florida State's rushing attack look like with a new position coach and without the talismanic Thompson? Randy Sanders is still officially listed as FSU's running backs coach, but it seems a safe bet that the recently hired Jay Graham will assume those duties. Under Eddie Gran, the Seminoles strived for a balanced attack and often strayed away from using a single featured back. With two talented and effective options in Freeman and Wilder, that could again be the case in 2013.

Time to make a move: Mario Pender signed with FSU amid plenty of buzz and hype before redshirting last season. Injuries and off-field issues have cast an uncertain cloud over Pender, but he has plenty of talent and speed – he's been clocked at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash – and could give his coaches something to think about if he has a strong spring.

Mario Pender will hope to make an impact this spring.

Best of the bunch: Can we call this one a tie? Freeman and Wilder have both shown the makings of all-conference players – or better – but each has also gone missing at various points during their two-year careers.

Biggest upside: At 6-2, 226 pounds, Wilder is extremely unpleasant for opposing defense to try to tackle – something he famously showed in last year's Clemson game. He made a big jump from his freshman to sophomore years and a similar jump as a junior could lead to very big things.

Don't be shocked if: Florida State doesn't feature a fullback too often this season. Lonnie Pryor's play practically demanded that FSU find a way to use him, but with an unproven commodity in Chad Abram set to take Pryor's place, Jimbo Fisher could just as likely eschew the position for an extra receiver or tight end.

Lest we forget: FSU's backs will be running behind an offensive line that came into its own a year ago and returns everyone except right tackle Menelik Watson. The line helped pave the way for the team's 5.6 yards per carry average in 2012.

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