Emery emerging into the kind of complete back that has LSU’s Kelly all smiles during spring training

Senior running back John Emery Jr. (4) missed all of the 2021 season because of academics.

Running back John Emery Jr. is making quite a favorable impression on new LSU coach Brian Kelly so far this spring.

   But it’s not just on the field.

   “It’s really about John being in a better place mentally than it is physically,” Kelly said after Saturday’s practice. “I think he’s not as distracted. He’s focused on what’s most important, and what is most important is his academics and football.”

   Emery rushed for 188 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries in 2019, and he had 378 rushing yards with three TDs while appearing in nine games including three starts as a sophomore in 2020.

   But the Destrehan High product didn’t play last season after being declared academically ineligible by the NCAA. Efforts by both LSU and his own attorney failed to clear him.

   Now he’s back, though, and on Saturday Emery made himself noticed by busting open a short-yardage situation run during the short portion of LSU’s practice open to media members.

   “I’m really proud of the progress he’s made since my short time here in making that happen,” Kelly said. “And I think we’re gonna see him play for us this fall because of that. And that’s all on him, right? He had to make that decision, and good for him.”

   Bernard-Converse out until June

   Cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse, a transfer from Oklahoma State who had 47 straight starts in four seasons with the Cowboys, remains out with what Kelly revealed on Saturday to be a Jones fracture of his foot sustained early in the spring.

   “We repaired it and he’s doing terrific,” Kelly said. “He’s on pace to be back for our June training, so we feel really good about where he’s gonna be.

   “We don’t have any concerns about that being a lingering situation.”

   But LSU does have depth concerns at corner.

   It dipped into the transfer portal to sign former Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns standout Mekhi Garner, and on Saturday Kelly indicated the Tigers may not be done searching for help there.

   “We may even look at the transfer portal to augment that position as well,” he said.

   Brooks will work at corner

   Arkansas transfer Greg Brooks Jr., a defensive back who’s been working at nickel since spring practice started, said Saturday he’ll be getting some work at corner too before the month is done.

   “I’m gonna move up to outside corner,” Brooks said. “It’s just being versatile. They think I can play all three positions. Right now, it’s nickel and corner.”

   Campbell impresses at left tackle

   LSU’s first team offensive line Saturday had Will Campbell working at left tackle, Xavier Hill at left guard, Charles Turner at center, Miles Frazier at right guard and Cam Wire at right tackle.

  Marcus Dumervil also has been getting work at the right tackle spot, and Kelly likes how the line has looked since Campbell, an early enrollee signee from Neville High in Monroe, was moved to left tackle.

   The play of the three tackles could allow Garrett Dellinger, who played tackle last season, to perhaps move inside after he returns from shoulder surgery.

   “He’s done a really nice job there,” Kelly said of Campbell. “It gives us a little bit more flexibility. Now you’ve got Dumervil and Wire to kind of tag-team.

   “It’s early. … But we are starting to see a little but of consistency there.”

   Kelly also likes how Turner is showing at center, where starter Liam Shanahan must be replaced. But he suggested nothing’s settled there.

   “He’s got ways to go. He (Turner) has not nailed down the position,” Kelly said. “He is gonna get some push when (injured) Marlon Martinez returns. … But he has done a really nice job.”

   The LSU quarterbacks

   Kelly continues to try to sort out the quarterback situation, which has sixth-year senior Myles Brennan remaining after missing most of the past two seasons with injuries. Former Arizona State starter Jayden Daniels was signed out the NCAA transfer portal, Garrett Nussmeier played four games as a freshman but protected his redshirt last season and high school signee Walker Howard in an as early enrollee.

   Kelly was especially liked how the veterans have handled pressure, checked protections and recognized where their hot reads were Saturday.

  “They all can play,” he said. “They all are not gonna be able to play at the same time,” Kelly added with a bit of a laugh. “So, we’re gonna have some difficult choices to make.”

   Howard hits Lacy

   Saturday’s practice ended with Howard, a St. Thomas More High product from Lafayette, connecting deep with transfer Kyren Lacy, a former Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns receiver from Thibodaux, on a 60-plus-yard touchdown in 11-on-11 work as defensive starters and backup looked on.

   Howard, son of former LSU quarterback Jamie Howard, has been working as LSU’s No. 4 QB during the first half of spring drills.

   Lagniappe

   Kelly said LSU’s remaining spring practices “will be scripted a little differently relative to reps and who’s gonna take what role within the offensive and defensive structure, so we’ll kind of shift gears here.” … Kelly seemed to like the flow of Saturday’s scrimmage work, saying “I don’t know if it was any cleaner, but it certainly was better intensity and the kind of competitive spirit I was looking for.” … Kelly indicated that, due to depth concerns, LSU’s April 23 spring game may not feature the format he initially envisioned after arriving late last year from Notre Dame. “Unfortunately, it’s starting to trend to an ‘offense vs. defense,’ which I can’t stand,” he said. “But it’s just because of where we are.”

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