LSU offensive coordinator Jake Peetz sees some Christian McCaffrey in LSU's John Emery Jr.

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE — For LSU tailback John Emery Jr., it was virtually love at first sight when he met new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz last January.

"He said I can be just like Christian McCaffrey," Emery said of the versatile Carolina Panthers running back who rushed for 1,387 yards and caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards in a Pro Bowl season in 2019. A year later, he became the highest-paid running back in NFL history in 2020 with a four-year, $64 million contract. 

"Coach Peetz actually showed me clips of Christian as soon as he came in," Emery said.

Peetz was Carolina's running backs coach in 2019 and its quarterback coach in 2020 before coming to LSU.

Nov 21, 2020; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; LSU Tigers running back John Emery Jr. (4) runs with the ball as Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Joe Foucha (7) makes a tackle during the first half at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

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"And me seeing that, I just knew it was going to be a perfect fit," Emery said.

Emery hopes to be a dual-threat like McCaffrey, who became just the third back in NFL history to gain more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in 2019.

"Coach Peetz says I kind of remind him of Christian McCaffrey," he said.

So far, though, Emery's career is not close to that of McCaffrey, who set the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season at Stanford with 3,864 in 2015. As a freshman reserve in 2019, Emery gained only 188 yards on 39 carries while catching six passes for 60 yards. In 2020, he started three games and gained 378 yards on 75 carries while catching 14 passes for 73 yards.

Nov 3, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Jarius Wright (13) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium.

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More was expected of Emery, who gained 1,693 yards as a senior at Destrehan High near New Orleans in 2018 and later signed with LSU as the No. 3 running back prospect in the nation. So far, junior tailback Tyrion Davis-Price has had the better career with 741 yards on 168 carries in two seasons.

"Tyrion and John have been off and on," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "We need some consistency out of both of them."

Emery agrees. 

"When I hear things like that, it gives me more motivation," he said. "And I'm sure it gives Tyrion motivation as well. It's not too much pressure. I just feel like it's my third year, and I have to hold up to a certain standard. I've been through the being-patient process."

He has learned while watching. In LSU's national championship season of 2019, tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire 1,414 yards rushing and caught 55 passes for 453 yards on his way to becoming a first-round pick of Kansas City.

"I've really sat back and observed," he said. "I'm grateful that I came in with a championship team, and me being a part of that team. I took in a lot. I know what a championship team looks like, and it was amazing. I've learned a lot, and I'm more focused than my last two years. I've grown, and I feel like me and this team are about to be very successful. I love the offense that we have right now with Coach Peetz."