- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State running back Mario Pender will miss the season with a severe groin injury, head coach Jimbo Fisher said Tuesday.
Before Florida State opened camp Monday, Fisher called Pender's injury "severe" but guessed the running back was still at 50 to 60 percent and would be able to practice as it healed.
By Tuesday, however, Pender's status had changed. The freshman watched some early running back drills dressed in a gray T-shirt and baseball cap. When workouts ended for the day Fisher announced Pender would undergo season-ending surgery.
"Instead of making it worse, we're going to get it fixed and have him ready to go," Fisher said. "We'll probably redshirt him."
The surgery will be similar to the procedure performed on teammate Xavier Rhodes had in the spring of 2011.
Pender, the No. 72 ranked player in the nation last year according to ESPN, was an early enrollee this spring and figured to be in the mix for playing time this season. Although Pender was fourth on the depth chart, virtually every member of Florida State's backfield is dealing with some question marks.
Pender helped fill the gaps in their absence, but according to Thompson, the freshman suffered the groin injury during the spring. It didn't improve enough during the summer, elevating concerns.
"He had told me what the whole problem was and I'm glad that the coaches and trainers finally realized to just go on and do what needs to be done," Thompson said. "You never know. Tomorrow it could've gotten worse."
Florida State finished 10th in the ACC in rushing last season, and while Pender wasn't likely to be a primary cog in this year's ground game, the injury means the Seminoles will have one fewer option moving forward.
The good news from Tuesday's practice, however, was that both Thompson and Freeman appeared to be running at close to 100 percent. Fisher said he was impressed with how both players have recovered from substantial back injuries.
"They said their backs have felt as good as they've felt in a long time," Fisher said. "Contact will make a difference, but that's the first time they were out there and they had a bounce in their step, had some explosion, and I was very pleased."
Now Pender faces his own rehab, and while Thompson said the freshman remained in good spirits Tuesday, it will likely be several months before Pender is back at practice.
"He's saying he's all right now, and I said the same when I was hurt," Thompson said. "But when he really gets alone and thinks about it, it's really going to hit him."
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