Skip to main content

Impact of RB John Emery Jr.'s return to LSU for 2024 season

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos06/09/24


Brian Kelly did not specifically circle running back as a major need this spring for LSU.

For the Tigers, the top priority this spring with defensive tackle. They missed on major names like Simeon Barrow and Damonic Williams, but they did land Grand Valley State transfer Jay’Viar Suggs last month.

On Friday, Kelly and LSU arguably landed one of their biggest wins of the offseason. Former five-star running back prospect John Emery Jr. announced he planned to withdraw from the transfer portal and return to Baton Rouge.

“I’m Staying Home,” he wrote on Instagram. As of Sunday afternoon, he’s yet to formally withdraw but it’s expected to be a formality.

When he entered in April as a grad transfer, Emery’s departure was the latest blow at the running back position. LSU lost three running backs to the portal this offseason: Armoni Goodwin (UAB), Tre Bradford and Logan Diggs (Ole Miss). The status of running back Trey Holly entering the 2024 season remains unknown. Currently suspended, he won’t face an attempted murder charge stemming from a February shooting in Farmerville, Louisiana. In April, a grand jury rejected the charge, instead charging Holly with one felony count of illegal use of a weapon or dangerous instrumentality.

“We do know Trey Holly,” Kelly said in April. “We’ve been with him. We advocated for him to continue his schooling and were happy he continued it as an online student so he maintained his eligibility by doing that.”

With Emery’s addition, the Tigers now enter the fall with a trio of experienced backs. LSU’s backfield will feature Emery along with Josh Williams and Kaleb Jackson. They were the only two scholarship backs in spring ball. The duo combined for 449 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

The Tigers also bring in 2024 four-star tailback Caden Durham, who enrolled in May. He’s expected to receive some carries as a true freshman.

A recent LSU grad, Emery visited UCLA this spring and was linked to the Bruins throughout his portal process. The No. 12 overall recruit in the 2019 cycle played in seven games a year ago but missed the back half of the year with an ACL injury.

The 6-foot, 224-pound running back missed the entire 2021 season because of academic issues. He enters the final year of his career with 1,062 career rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Emery has played in 37 career games, bringing SEC experience to a team that lost its leading rusher to the NFL in Jayden Daniels. The Heisman Trophy winner rushed for 1,134 yards while throwing for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

LSU stocked up its wide receiver room this offseason, adding Zavion Thomas and CJ Daniels to ensure Garrett Nussmeier had plenty of options in Year 1 at starting quarterback.

But getting John Emery Jr. to withdraw and return to Baton Rouge for a final season gives Nussmeier an experienced running back in the backfield. He might not command the most carries, but his return shores up any concerns about depth at the position entering the fall.