It’s a very good thing for Florida State that Dalvin Cook was reinstated in late August after being acquitted of misdemeanor battery, because the Seminoles would be facing a serious depth situation at running back in his absence. That’s because Mario Pender, Cook’s top backup, could be out for several weeks with a lung injury.
Pender initially suffered a collapsed lung on Sept. 22, when he ran into a FSU offensive lineman during a routine running play in practice, according to Warchant.com. The fourth-year junior was hospitalized, and at first it didn’t appear as though he’d miss a game. The Seminoles were on a bye the weekend of Sept. 26.
But Pender didn’t seem to recover as well as hoped in the hospital, and he wound up having surgery on Sept. 30 to correct what Fisher told Warchant as “some infection in his lungs.”
Pender will more than likely still be in the hospital in Tallahassee as the Seminoles take on Wake Forest Saturday in Winston-Salem. Then the big question becomes whether or not Pender will be back for FSU’s rivalry showdown in Doak-Campbell Stadium on Oct. 10, or whether he may be forced to miss multiple games.
If Pender stays in the hospital for the better part of the next week, it’s difficult to imagine the junior will be ready to play against the Hurricanes. That means his return could be delayed to FSU’s home game with Louisville on Oct. 17, or perhaps even the Seminoles’ road contest at Georgia Tech on Oct. 24.
For his part, Fisher didn’t seem terribly worried about the situation in multiple interviews this week.
Along with Cook, who leads the ACC in rushing heading into the Wake Forest game with 476 yards, the Seminoles have true freshman Jacques Patrick at their disposal, as well as multi-talented sophomore Johnathan Vickers. This trio will undoubtedly carry the load in the offensive backfield for FSU until Pender can get back into the rotation.
“We have Dalvin and Jacques Patrick, a young freshman, got a guy named Johnathan Vickers who I’m extremely high on,” said Fisher. “Mario definitely won’t play this weekend (against Wake Forest). Johnathan Vickers is a 220-pound guy that has really good hands. Had a great camp for us, played very well. Scored a touchdown the first game. Catches the ball out of the backfield very well. Patrick, great hands, big, 235 pounds, runs the ball extremely well. Those guys run with our ones and twos all the time in reps and practice. Feel very comfortable with where that is and with Dalvin. So we feel very comfortable with those backs that will be the rotation this weekend.”
“It’s always going to fall on Dalvin because he’s playing and starting, and he’ll feel that (against the Demon Deacons),” Fisher continued. “But we are still going to play Vickers and Jacques. We are going to keep them right in the rotation and get those guys in there, because again they have practiced extreme. It’s funny, because we were in some tight games, we have been very comfortable, we felt after the second week right there, middle of that second week you just saw him practicing just like they need to. Feel very comfortable with them in all phases.”
“During the week a lot of times we’ll take a lot of burden off Pender and Dalvin, getting those guys ready because we feel comfortable when they go in with the ones, we don’t miss a beat in practice. So as far as knowing what to do and how to do it, you know what I’m saying, getting those guys comfortable with those guys, so I’m anxious to watch him play.”