The popular Netflix documentary series Last Chance U came back last week with its 2nd, and in my opinion, final season. I don’t know if I would consider them spoilers, but I will give the warning now: WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Coach Buddy Stephens did not like what he saw when the first season of the documentary aired last year and for this season made a conscious effort to correct his language and contain his temper. To his credit, that is a real tough thing to do, recognize and acknowledge that you have an issue and actively work to correct it. HOWEVA *Stephen A Smith voice*, that all unraveled as the season went on. Stephens to me was far worse in this season than in season one. He really seemed more interested in his own fortune than anything else and really reminded me of Jon Voight’s character in Varsity Blues, Bud Kilmer. Now, this may all be off-based as we can only judge based on what the cameras showed us, but from what I saw, this was a man who did not have any intention of getting to know his players, how they worked, or what helped motivate them.
Yes, he can easily say that by playing for me, you will gain national exposure and be a member of the best Junior College football team in the country, which I believe they were. And I’m sure that is and was his recruiting pitch. I do wonder what this series will do to his recruiting ability, but anyway, it really just seemed like he was using these guys to get himself to where he needed to be. Frankly, that’s all coaching is, but there’s a human element to the business, which really seemed to be missing and it irked me as the season progressed. This was especially evident when they compared Coahoma to EMCC. Just as bad is the way he treated some of his staff, I think the Offensive Coordinator, Coach Marcus Wood, did an exceptional job with his unit all season and I don’t blame him one bit for stepping down following the shit he took in the bowl game.
Ed Holly had a really tough year, that defense, specifically the line, just never seemed to gel. It really was every man for himself and they had a lack of focus and execution at far too many key points. Credit to Holly, he remained positive despite his defense collapsing on multiple occasions and him on the sideline begging them to make a play. Davern Williams the D-Line coach had the tough job of working with the defensive line day in and day out. Aside from the mini scuffle he had with Kam Carter, he did his part keeping his composure and staying on his guys in and out of practice.
Last year, I was a big John Franklin and DJ Law guy. J5 got the raw end of the deal at Auburn and should have seen a lot more time if Gus had any idea how to run a competent offense. Law has had some trouble, he had surgery on his knee and hasn’t recovered as expected, it was recently reported that he has left UAB and will look at NAIA options or try to play professionally in Canada. This season had a really interesting group of players as most had some legal issues.
From a talent perspective, there was no player better than De’Andre Johnson. The kid is an absolute star. He is a true dual threat quarterback and I think he will shine in Lane Kiffin’s system. Obviously, what he did was a horrible thing and he needed to pay for what was done. He has three years of eligibility left and depending on how those three years turn out, he very well could have paid for it. I think he has NFL talent, but playing at FAU as opposed to FSU is a monumental difference, we’re talking millions upon millions of dollars.
Kam Carter was easily the most frustrating player to watch this season. The kid has SEC level talent and was just so apathetic to everything. He rarely tried in practice, was always talking back to his coaches and teammates, and would mouth off to everyone, including the female student trainers. He has had a tough life and I can empathize with that, and certainly is one of the millions of people who suffer because medical marijuana isn’t allowed everywhere in the US, but it seemed like every time there was an issue, he was in the middle of it. Then, come gameday, you remember exactly why he was there, the kid was a gamer and a difference maker on the D-line. Pitt will have a real good one IF they can sort out his attitude.
The second most frustrating player to watch was Isaiah Wright. He was explosive, quick, athletic and an absolute player-maker wherever you put him. He suffered a few injuries and then really let his attitude get in the way of him getting back on the field. It’s tough because you look at a kid like that, you see his potential, and you see that he understands what is going on, but there is just a clear disconnect between player and coach. And I think that blame falls a little bit on both Buddy and Isaiah because they need to be adults and just talk it out. So many times during this season you hear him go, “I’m a man, I’m a man”. Well then quit bitching and act like it, talk to your coach and understand each other. The problem is that both sides could have done that, but neither stepped up and he is the one who suffered because of it. He should be able to put up monster numbers at West Georgia if given the opportunity.
This next guy is the one I most enjoyed watching but wasn’t my favorite overall, Tim Bonner. Bonner was at Louisville briefly before transferring to EMCC where he played DE. Bonner was consistently shown smiling and laughing, especially when with academic counselor Brittany Wagner. Bonner was a slim, athletic end with great speed off the ball. He really seemed to be the favorite of both Wagner and d-line coach Williams this year. Tim will also play for FAU this Fall and with the additions of Bonner, Johnson and QB Coach now Tight End Coach Clint Trickett, the Owls have become my new team this Fall. #OwlUp
This last player was my favorite to watch this season and may have been the guy with the worst strike against him. Dakota Allen was arrested while at Texas Tech on a second-degree charge of burglary of habitation along with a couple other Tech football players. He transferred to EMCC following that and really transformed his life. He mentions early on that he always enjoyed school and knew that without it, he could not play football so he would make time and do well in class. Allen also found faith during the season, which truly transformed him. They showed his baptism, him in Bible Study with Coach Wood and some other players, at church, and he constantly would say that if it was according to God’s plan it would happen. Allen will be back at Texas Tech playing football next season.
BONUS: Vijay Miller the backup dual threat QB was drafted in the 17th round of the 2017 MLB Draft and signed with the San Diego Padres. He is currently playing for their Arizona League team.
Both in terms of the games played and the entertainment, I thought it was frustrating. This was a team that was clearly better than everyone they stepped on the field against, but just couldn’t ever seem to find their rhythm and despite Johnson being an offensive leader, didn’t really have anyone to fill that leadership role and bring them together. Just looking at the schedule, EMCC should have been in the National Championship game. Their only loss was by 2 points on the road with 30 total players, all of whom were not with the program the year before. That’s absolutely incredible. Yes, I get it, they lost a game and in the archaic system that Juco seems to do their championship (ala BCS style), it seems that #1 vs #2 in a bowl game is how the title is decided. But it was evident that EMCC was the most talented and best team in the country.
Why It Won’t Be Back
I really don’t believe we will see Season 3 of Last Chance U at East Mississippi. While it will be interesting to see Buddy Stephens in action again, there is just so much turnover on his staff and the biggest loss, which I believe will be the deciding factor, is Brittany Wagner leaving. Wagner added the human element, the caring element to the show that it so desperately needed. She truly loved those kids. She would do everything she could to put them in a position to succeed but there were a few things that became abundantly clear as the show went on.
First is that she was losing patience with these guys and I do not blame her. It is tough working with college kids, let alone ones who aren’t inclined to do school work or go to class. When that’s your entire job, yeah, that’s really damn difficult.
Second, is that her personal life was truly suffering by staying in Scooba, MS. I don’t think I really need to elaborate but she could absolutely do this at a much larger university, which would pay her more to live in a bigger city, with much more opportunity for personal growth. Last is there was just such a clear disconnect between her and Stephens that she almost didn’t seem to care at the end of the year. She would take
Last is there was just such a clear disconnect between her and Stephens that she almost didn’t seem to care at the end of the year. She would take calls from other potential jobs right in front of the players. That’s a tough look but is understandable and certainly forgivable.
At the end day, she got out and started her own company, where she will help student-athletes who need academic counseling services.
UPDATE: This update has come a bit late, but I finally found some time to get back and mention it. Season 2 star Isaiah Wright and his brother, former EMCC and Indiana wide-out Camion Patrick were arrested in connection to the murder of a 17 year-old in Tennessee. Patrick, who was heralded as the best player at IU for a few seasons, had his season and career cut short due to injuries. Wright, who I wrote about above at length, was incredibly talented, but seemed to have that bad streak in him. He chose West Georgia to continue his playing career, but coaches said he stopped showing up after a couple days/weeks of summer camp. An really sad twist to this story, so much talent for both young men seemingly wasted and especially so for the family of the victim. Truly a senseless crime (from all the info I can find on it).