LSU running back John Emery Jr. will not play for the No. 5 Tigers when they open the season against No. 8 Florida State on Sunday night in Orlando, coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday. Emery, a fifth-year senior, has rushed for 941 yards and 13 touchdowns during his career after arriving in Baton Rouge as a five-star prospect from the Class of 2019.
No reason was given for Emery’s absence, with Kelly stating stating only that the back will be “unavailable” for the marquee showdown with the Seminoles. However, 247Sports notes that Emery “spent most of this offseason attempting to get academically eligible and returned to the program this fall after meeting certain criteria.”
Emery’s absence marks the third consecutive season opener in which he has been unavailable.
While not ideal, the absence of Emery shouldn’t hamper LSU too much. The Tigers have assembled enviable depth in their backfield for Kelly’s second season. Veteran running backs Noah Cain and Josh Williams return after playing significant roles last season, and Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs was added during the offseason. Diggs averaged 5.0 yards per carry and totaled 822 yards on the ground for the Fighting Irish last season.
At one point, Emery was regarded as LSU’s star running back of the future. As a true freshman on the Tigers’ 2019 national title team, he scored four touchdowns on the ground as a backup to Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Tyrion Davis-Price. However, academic issues have hampered Emery throughout his career. He should again factor into the team’s rotation once he returns, but LSU’s depth at the position suggests the program is likely to rely on a committee approach from its running backs in 2023.