If you wanted the true story of determination and perseverance, then the staff’s recruitment of John Emery Jr. would take the cake. After passing on Travis Etienne two years back and only getting Chris Curry last year, the emphasis on refilling the running back cupboard and reigniting the tradition of top-tier players at the position became the utmost importance.
They achieved that goal with a pair of backs that could be considered the best haul at the position.
On the field, the LSU running backs didn’t lose a step when Tommie Robinson joined the staff before the 2017 season. Derrius Guice put up his second-straight 1,000 yard season, and Darrel Williams became a heck of a multi-purpose back, with Nick Brossette finishing seventh in the SEC with 1,038 yards last season. Unfortunately, the depth at the position wasn’t getting better, and Louisiana native Travis Etienne racking up 26 total touchdowns for Clemson in 2018 wasn’t helping fans with their opinion on Robinson.
Tyrion Davis-Price, who we’ll cover later, calmed those waters when he committed to LSU in September of his junior year. Playing his high school career a short drive away from LSU, it didn’t take long for Davis, giving the staff the ability to turn their attention to Emery. Problem was, Emery Jr. appeared to be dead-set on going out of state.
First, it was Mississippi State. Joe Moorhead had come over serving as Penn State offensive coordinator with an ace in the hole to pitch to running backs. Saquon Barkley finished fourth in Heisman voting and was the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The temptation was there, but it wasn’t enough for the Bulldogs.
Then it came down to the other set, a bigger and meaner version a little further east. Georgia was on a roll with Kirby Smart at the helm, and their recruiting was at peak form. Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb came through Athens, and they were dead center in the national title hunt. It was enough to get Emery Jr. to commit in July of his senior year following a campus visit. Despite being an in-state recruit, the challenge in getting a kid wanting to go out of state and committed to a powerhouse seemed like a daunting uphill climb.
Maybe it was Georgia getting three top-tier running backs the previous two years or the pressure to stay in-state (or a combination of both), but three months later Emery Jr. was de-committing from Georgia before committing to LSU two weeks later. He signed a month later, and now we get look forward to him in the purple and gold.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
247 Composite Rating: *****
247 Composite Ranking: .9929
On the precipice of the top ranking tier possible, Emery Jr. used a strong final two seasons to go from being in the 130s before his junior year to end up as the No. 13 recruit in the entire nation. Filling out his frame, Emery Jr. bulked up to 205 pounds to become more than just a speed back and get ready for the rigors of SEC football, likely helping his ranking improve.
I mean what is there not to like about this guy? If he gets in the open field, you can just forget about it. He has the patience to wait for a hole to develop and find it, using his acceleration to make those late adjustments. Tremendous ability to stop and start quickly. The one thing I truly love is he has no issue getting in there when it comes to blocking. Be it run or pass blocking, you rarely see clips of it from high school running backs, whereas Emery Jr. has several. Having that aspect to your game is one that can get your early playing time if you’re willing to throw your body in there like that.
With Brossette graduating, it leaves Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the only LSU back to play significant snaps. Chris Curry, who received praise for his spring work, didn’t play too much as the season wore on and redshirted. Lanard Fournette is back there, but he is more of a third-down back or garbage-time back. Davis-Price is joining the fold as well, so it will be interesting to see who breaks out of the pack in fall practice. Make no mistake about it, Emery has the all-around skillset and work ethic that could easily put him second on the depth chart to start the season, if not pass CEH.
High End: The next in line of great LSU running backs.
Low End: Becomes a third-down/multi-purpose specialist due to his speed.
Realistic: It will be near impossible for Ensminger to keep Emery Jr. off the field early. His elite skillset is way too versatile, even with Edwards-Helaire and Davis-Price in the fold. I mentioned him earlier, but a Etienne career path seems like a good outlook for him. Edwards-Helaire will probably stay as the main back through the first half of the season, but watch for Emery Jr. and Davis to quickly eat into those touches.