Kelly confirms LSU will be without running back John Emery for Sunday’s opener against Florida State

Tigers were already unable to play injured running back Armoni Goodwin

Rrunning back John Emery Jr. (4) will not be available to play in Sunday's season opener against Florida State. PHOTO BY: LSU athletics

LSU’s deep running back position will be without at least two players for Sunday’s season opener with.

When the No. 5 Tigers face No. 8 Florida State at 6:30 p.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, they will be without running backs Armoni Goodwin (injury) and John Emery Jr.

Second-year coach Brian Kelly confirmed Emery’s status on Wednesday’s SEC Coaches Teleconference.

“He’s unavailable,” Kelly said when asked of Emery’s standing.

LSU will also be without standout defensive tackle Maason Smith who received a one-game suspension from the NCAA for receiving an impermissible benefit.

Kelly didn’t elaborate whether Emery, who missed all of spring because of academic issues, would be eligible to play in the Sept. 9 home opener against Grambling State.

Academics have proven to be a hurdle for Emery who missed all of the 2021 season and first two games of the ’22 season because of academics. He returned last season and started in two of 11 games, rushing 76 times for 375 yards and six touchdowns to go along with 13 receptions for 129 yards and two scores.

The former five-star prospect from Destrehan High has five career starts in 30 games. He’s gained 940 yards and scored 13 TDs and caught 33 passes for 262 yards and two scores.

Kelly said during his weekly news conference that Josh Williams is “probable” and gave glowing reviews Wednesday on Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs who has missed time during fall camp but has practiced this week.

“Well, he’s a back that has all the tools. He has the ability to be explosive as a runner, catches the ball extremely well out of the backfield, has great knowledge in terms of pass protection and has experience,” Kelly said. “He’s played a lot of football at a Power 5 school (Notre Dame), a team that played at the highest level. So, he brings a lot of those experience pieces as well as development pieces in terms of the complete back. He adds to an experienced group with (Noah) Cane and (Josh) Williams. That’s pretty good and John Emery, when he’s able to come back, you’ve got a deep and talented experienced group of running backs anytime you have that in the SEC you feel pretty good about it.”

Here’s what else Kelly had to say:

Opening statement:

“Good to be back here and talking about college football with so many other things are going on in the world today. So, it’s nice to have this brief respite to talk about a game, and you know the game is exciting with two nationally ranked football teams. We played to a close one-point game last year decided by block extra point, so we know what’s in store for us. It’s an outstanding football team (FSU coach) that Mike Norvell has done a great job in building back to elite status. Our guys have recognized that in terms of how they’ve prepared, and I think we’re at that point like most teams, excited about the opportunity to go out and play. We’re going to finish up preparation this week. We hope and pray that everybody is safe from the storm. We don’t expect any ramifications from that. It looks like things will clear out time for the game on Sunday. And from our standpoint, it’s really just focusing on our process and what we do in terms of our preparation, and then go play a game that a lot of people want to see on Sunday. It will be the only game on TV, so that has this kind of matchup with two top 10 teams. So, pretty excited to get the season started.”

How effective has Jayden Daniels executed the plan you had for him?

“Well, the preparation part has been very effective. We haven’t gotten into the performance part yet. So, that’s where a lot of this is because we start to answer a lot of these questions when it comes to performance. But in terms of his preparation, both on and off the field, I think it’s exactly where we wanted it to be. We’ve seen his growth off the field in terms of his work in the community, his ability to lead. He’s been named captain. He’s developed in a manner that when you see his work and practice, you see a more complete quarterback. And those are the things that we’re mapping out. He’s stronger physically. He’s put on the right weight. He’s healthy and all those areas now. It’s about flipping that switch and going from all this preparation to performance. And my experience tells me if you prepare the right way and all of those facets, the performance kind of takes care of itself. So, now it’s just a matter of waiting for that opportunity and then taking advantage of it.”

Challenges that come with defending Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis

“I think it’s well chronicled what he’s done. I’ve faced them, this will be four times now. So, I know him quite well. First of all, he’s a great competitor. I think a lot of times we’ve talked about (his) skill set; we forget about how great of a competitor he is. He refuses to lose. You know he has that fire. He’s always going to be in the mix. Regardless of the situation, he competes every single snap. I love that about him his makeup. I think the other thing is his ability to push the ball down the field. He throws a great long ball and with the receivers that he has, it’s a great fit. So, the ability to push the ball and throw the ball down the field, makes him a great fit for the offense that they run, and his ability to extend plays in his athleticism. You look at the run last year against Florida where they’ve got him in the backfield. His ability to escape and extend plays. So, you know, all of those things together, make him the kind of player that he is and he’s a winner. I think that to me tops it all off, his competitiveness and that he’s a winner.”

How does your team compare going into your second year?

“Well, I think it’s just that. I mean there were just so many more question marks. Now they’ve answered some of those question marks in the way they played. And they had a personality of their own. They were a competitive group and they fought hard, and they overcame a lot of the sloppiness, and we did that against Florida State. We put the ball on the ground a couple of times in special teams, had some bad snaps and they overcame it. That was the demeanor last year. That was their DNA, I guess I would say. So, they answered a lot of those questions. I think we go into this season with less question marks, but we still have to develop an identity of this team. And that’s why you go to go play, to really get a sense of what your football team is about.”

Challenge of defending FSU’s 6-7 wide out Johnny Wilson

“Any ball that’s thrown up there you would like it to be 50-50. The thing with Wilson is that he turns it into 75-25. And so, competing for the football in the air is going to be paramount to our success. We’ve got to make him 50-50 and to do that we’ve got to be on-body. We’ve got to be able to disrupt him off the line of scrimmage so the timing’s a little bit off in terms of some of those throws. If he gets clean releases down the field, and they’re easy throws to them, he’s going to make them and Jordan (Travis) is going to get the ball (to him), too. So, you’ve got to make it harder in terms of disrupting timing. You’ve got to be on-body. You’ve got to compete for the catches every single time. Because when you are 6-7, you have the kind of talent he has when he is targeted, it’s certainly a challenge.”

What’s your impression of LSU’s brand in recruiting?

“Well, I think I think it’s the flagship school of the state. I think it clearly has a strong foothold. But you still have to be able to promote what this program is about, what it stands for as the academic mission. You can’t just say, ‘Well, I’m from Louisiana, and you’re coming LSU’ because it works on both ends. We’re going to recruit the very best student athletes in the state. They don’t all fit here. But let’s make sure that we understand that not everybody fits the mission that we have here in this program. That’s important to recognize, and on the other hand, we’ve got to make sure that when there are those student-athletes out there that do fit. We recruit the heck out of them and not assume that they’re coming to LSU just because we’re the flagship school. So, you know, it works both ways from that perspective, and I mean we definitely have a slant in our favor, but you’ve got to work at it. And you’ve got to make sure that you’re not taking players just because they’re from Louisiana. They still have to fit the mission that you have here.”

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