More than learning a new offense, it’s almost as though Emmons is mastering a new position.
“I feel like in this conference and the offense that we run we’re basically like a No. 2 quarterback,” Emmons said. “We’ve got to know a lot of stuff that at Alabama you wouldn’t have to know or anywhere else you really wouldn’t have to know.”
Emmons carried the ball 35 times for 173 yards and a score in 2016 as a true freshman with the Crimson Tide, where Kiffin employed more of a traditional pro set. For his sophomore season Emmons transferred to Hutchinson C. C., then sat out last season to get his academics in order before reuniting with Kiffin this spring.
Upon his arrival Emmons quickly saw an unfamiliar offense. FAU hired Kiffin following the 2016 season, and Kiffin immediately hired Kendal Briles to coordinate the Owls’ offense.
Briles installed the uptempo, spread offense he guided to massive point totals at Baylor, teaching that offense to Kiffin in the process. Kiffin kept that offense, loaded with read-options and run-pass options, when Briles departed for Houston after one season, teaching a version of it to current offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
As a result, instead of scanning the defense presnap for potential holes or blocking assignments, Emmons now has many other responsibilities – including relaying the protection calls to the offensive line – he needs to learn on top of mastering a whole new playbook.
“Never, never experienced that in the past,” Emmons said. “That’s kind of tough on me now because I’ve got to learn it, learn the calls, learn the fronts, and then learn my plays. And that could be something that I lacked this whole last year.”
Once the ball is snapped Emmons and the Owls running backs take on a whole new set of tasks, including keeping a low pad level, identifying key landmarks within the play, and locating the middle linebacker.
“That’s why [Running backs coach Kevin] Smith is so hard on details and discipline,” Emmons said. “It’s really the little stuff that can make a play go. You’ve just got to understand the little stuff so you can make those big runs, so you can break for 80 [yards], so you can get in the end zone.”
FAU running backs haven’t spent much time in the end zone this spring. None of them found the promised land in either of the last two scrimmages, those Emmons did score the first spring touchdown with one a run.
Coaches’ reviews of the running back unit following Saturday’s spring game didn’t exactly bring smiles to players’ faces.
Emmons said coaches characterized the unit’s play as “Poor. Not good. A lack of details.”
Currently behind redshirt junior James Charles on the depth chart, Emmons expects continued improvement as the offense, and his position within it, become more second nature.
“I feel like as a team, as a unit, in the running back room we haven’t reached our peak yet, and that’s kind of good,” Emmons said. “We’ve just got so much work to do.”