Former West Virginia and Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett entered the coaching business last year as quarterbacks coach at East Mississippi Community College. And his first season was a doozy. The Netflix documentary "Last Chance U" went behind the scenes for EMCC's insane 2015 season as the team chased its third consecutive NJCAA national championship.
We caught up with Trickett this week to get his take on watching “Last Chance U,” his now-famous quarterbacks and what’s next for the program. Fair warning to those who haven’t yet watched the six-part documentary: There might be some spoilers.
How’s the response been since "Last Chance U" came out on Netflix?
Clint Trickett: Pretty good, actually. Obviously we had a crazy year. That’s not a normal year. So for that to be my first year in coaching was a little eye-opening to say the least. I think the documentary has been great for the school. We’re seeing a lot of positive feedback. Obviously the ending puts a sour taste in our mouth, but we did a good job with the kids throughout the offseason to move past it.
How did you feel about watching it?
CT: You know, I was honestly worried at first. I didn’t want to be in it originally. I signed the release and kinda wanted to just avoid it and coach football. But they called my bluff and put me in it. It didn’t exploit me in any bad way. They did a great job, very professional, so I had no problem with it. It’s shot phenomenally, it’s a great story and it gives college football fans a look into the junior college level that probably not a lot of people knew about.
You mentioned moving past the brawl. The documentary showed some players turning on head coach Buddy Stephens at the end. Are things are in a better place today?
CT: Absolutely. Coach Stephens admitted he had to make some changes. He didn’t realize some things, and it takes a man to admit that. He told the kids the same thing and he’s been doing a great job of turning it back. And the kids can respect that. They know last year was a bad deal. He didn’t understand the fight, and once we saw it he realized how great of a job our guys really did of restraining themselves. For 31 seconds, not one player on the sideline interfered with a guy on the field. That’s pretty impressive in a fight. If you’ve ever been in a fight, they’re usually not even 31 seconds long. I’m proud of our guys.
How is this next EMCC team looking?
CT: Looking pretty good. We’ve got a tough little situation going into Game 1: Half of our team is suspended, including myself. So we’ll be playing a college football game with 31 true freshmen and transfers. After the brawl we got a two-game suspension. First game was the first round of the playoffs. Second game was the first game of this year. So they really got us. Really bad deal.
Wow. How are those players going to be coached?
CT: Good question. All of the coaches who were here last year are suspended for it, except the head coach. We got two new full-time defensive coaches and three new [graduate assistants]. They’ll all be able to go. The rest of us won’t.
CT: You saw how Wyatt was portrayed on the show, and that’s how he is. He’s exactly what you’d want your son to be. If I could have a Wyatt Roberts every year for the rest of my career, I’ll be the happiest coach in college football.
I helped bring John in from Florida State and had to help him through everything. He’s coming in expecting to start and he didn’t. Wyatt didn’t let go of the job, plain and simple. That’s a tough deal. You’re thinking, ‘This is my one chance to move on and I messed it up, I’m never going to play, they won’t recruit a backup.’ I had to calm him down and get him through that. He realized he had to make the most of his chances, and he did. When Auburn came to see him, he tore it up and got his offer and he’s competing for the starting job there.
Wyatt’s now at Mississippi State. Just found out Dan Mullen personally came and saw him last week and had him come walk on when one of their quarterbacks transferred. So both quarterbacks are playing in the SEC, and I’m pretty excited about that.
Speaking of the stars of the doc, have you enjoyed seeing [athletic instructional advisor and compliance assistant] Brittany Wagner get some recognition for all her work?
CT: It’s been great. That’s what I’ve seen every day, that enthusiasm. She’s a professional. She handles the kids phenomenally. They trust her. The thing about her is, we’re the only school in the MACJC [Mississippi Association of Community & Junior Colleges] that has a lady doing that. Most schools have coaches doing the schedules. That’s why we’ve been such a great program, because we get the academic side of it right. We do the most, and that’s why we get the most.
The documentary also highlights the fact you guys run up the score. Buddy Stephens says it can make you the bad guys in some people’s eyes. I’m curious, is that just the reality of trying to move up the juco rankings? Or might you guys change that approach?
CT: This is the way I look at it: We have a 55-man roster of freshmen and sophomores. Not a lot. When you get up by 38 points in this league, there’s a running clock. We want all of our guys to go Division I. That means we’ve got to get them great film. That means they want touchdowns. Well, we’re gonna do whatever we can do to get all of our kids to the next level. Everyone has a chance to stop it.
Perfect example is John Franklin in the Delta game: Auburn is there, we want him to show off his talent, he doesn’t have any great film and if he doesn’t get that offer who knows where he’s at? And it got him that offer. Call it what you like. We’re going to do the utmost for our kids to get them to the next level and win games. And there’s the fact of the rankings. If you get a close game and you win it, you drop down -- which has happened many, many times. So, shoot, you’ve got to win big, I guess, and we’ll do it.
They couldn’t have picked a more dramatic season to film, right?
CT: Yeah, that’s what I was wondering: ‘Hey, at what point did you guys know you hit the absolute jackpot?’ They really did. I think everything they probably wanted to show in season 1, they’re probably gonna have to show in Season 2 because there were so many storylines that just grab you.
By the way, are they filming right now for Season 2? Are you getting used to the presence of cameras?
CT: Yeah, they’re here every day right now. Honestly, I didn’t know how big it was going to be. I was so busy with it being my first year and dealing with a quarterback competition. I was so caught up in that so I didn’t pay attention to the cameras. I was too engulfed by my job.
And I’ll be the same this year. Got a great quarterback this year [former Florida State QB De'Andre Johnson], a highly touted guy who had some off-field problems but he's turned it around. He’s been great, and we signed a freshman [Vijay Miller] with a really bright future. I’m excited about this year.