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John Emery Jr. had plenty of suitors coming out of Destrehan High School in Louisiana back in 2019. Alabama, Georgia and every other SEC school envisioned the talented five-star prospect someday leading their respective team’s backfield.
Unfortunately for all those out-of-state schools, it was always going to be in-state LSU who landed Emery’s services.
His first season in Baton Rouge did not yield notable results, however. Emery was buried behind eventual first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire and fellow first-year running back Tyrion Davis-Price on the depth chart. Combine that with Joe Burrow’s 115 carries, there wasn’t many opportunities left for Emery in Year 1.
On the season, the 6-foot, 203-pound rusher was only given 45 touches (39 carries, 6 receptions), which he turned into 148 total yards and four scores. His 4.82 yards per carry wasn’t terrible, but it was nothing to write home about either.
The 2020 season, despite all the craziness and uncertainty, is breathing new life into Emery.
The Week 1 loss to Mississippi State was a glimpse of Emery’s potential, as he totaled 52 yards (27 rushing, 25 receiving) on 10 touches. The flood gates opened in Week 2, however, with a big 41-7 bounce back win against Vanderbilt.
Emery was a driving force behind that sizable victory, too. On 12 carries, he rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown while also adding three catches for 21 yards. The team’s next leading rushers were Davis-Price and Josh Williams, who only combined for 59 yards on 16 carries (a 3.7-yard average).
Emery’s performance has led to plenty of praise from LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.
“I thought John Emery ran the ball well,” Orgeron said, according to 247Sports. “He’s bigger and he’s stronger, but overall, I’m so pleased with John of handling the football and not giving that football up. That’s the biggest improvement he’s made.”
Ball security is one of most crucial traits needed to be trusted as a running back, so solving that issue should automatically lead to more opportunities for Emery. Don’t expect him to assume some type of workhorse role anytime in the near future, however.
Davis-Price and redshirt sophomore Chris Curry, the starter against Mississippi State who as held out against the Commodores due to injury, should all continue to be a part of a deep rotation of runners. It’s possible that we’ll continue to see Williams mixed in there as well.
“Curry was not available. Him, (Emery) and Tyrion were going to share the reps,” Orgeron said during the postgame. “Tyrion started, but John got hot. (LSU running backs coach Kevin Faulk) kept him in.
“We’ve been seeing these John Emery runs, we’ve been seeing them in practice and he finally got a chance in the game. Excellent job. What I’m most proud of is him protecting the football.”
LSU hopes to see this continued impact from Emery and other running backs. If that happens, it will continue to take pressure off the shoulders of quarterback Myles Brennan, who showed improvement when throwing for 337 yards and four scores while averaging 9.1 yards per attempt.
Almost every running back on the Tigers’ roster is talented, but Emery’s natural ability and overall ceiling exceed the rest — as long as he continues to make strides in ball security and pass protection.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.