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Last Chance U Season 2 Review (Part 2): Last Chance at Redemption

Can the EMCC Lions redeem themselves - personally and on the field - to win a National Championship?

Netflix

Note: spoilers aplenty for Last Chance U Season 1 and 2. Read at your own risk! Although, again, all of this happened last fall.

Last week I covered the first half of the second season of Netflix’s Last Chance U, the best college football documentary series maybe ever made. Over the last week I finished up the season, and man, it was honestly probably better than the first season.

A few thoughts about the second half of the season before I delve into the players, coaches and staff, and how their season goes, and where they’ll be playing this fall.

Overall, I loved the season just as much as the first one. There’s definitely a bit of a different air, like I mentioned in part one, especially in that Stephens constantly tells the cameras to get out of his face.

Like Jason Kirk says in his review, this show is all about redemption. Stephens may come across poorly between the two seasons, but he has an extremely difficult job of harnessing his team’s tremendous talent in the span of a single season. Most of these guys come to EMCC for football and walk out the door the moment the season ends and the offers come through. It’s no wonder Stephens can be so difficult with them; he’s retooling his entire team nearly every year. We see it all the time with John Calipari’s young Kentucky basketball teams, too. There are a lot of big personalities on the teams in both seasons. Season one’s brawl was a lot of things, but the biggest thing about it to me was the display of camaraderie shown by the entire team. They saw their teammate go down and went to his aid without any sort of hesitation, consequences and National Championship be damned. Stephens and his coaching staff play a large part in creating that sort of environment for their players.

The same deserves to be said about the team in season two. Stephens inherits players with a ton of talent, especially in QB De’Andre Johnson (more on him below) and the entire defense. Making them play to their potential is a difficult challenge that plagues the team all season. Where Kirk Ferentz inherits players and turns them into leaders over the course of 3-4 years, Stephens inherits kids that he turns into leaders in six months, and instills in them a culture of brotherhood. The Lions ends up winning every game but the season opener, including the Mississippi State Championship, but the season opening loss (that featured a depleted EMCC roster thanks to the suspensions from the brawl) and the lack of point disparity in the victories (if I under the polling system correctly, which, who knows if I really do), keeps the Lions out of the National Championship game.

Now Stephens and the Lions are in new territory, with changes all over the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Marcus Wood (a favorite of mine to watch in the show) took an administrative post at EMCC. Defensive coordinator Ed Holly, who was with the Lions for one season, also departed. Former WVU QB and EMCC QB Coach Clint Trickett joined Lane Kiffin’s FAU staff as the QB coach, and took some EMCC players with him. Trickett’s replacement is former Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace(!) who had his own stay at EMCC before the cameras came rolling to Scooba. According to that Dispatch article, it will be the first season under Stephens that will feature new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

If there’s another season (and I really hope there is), there will certainly be no shortage of storylines. Now let’s breakdown what happens to the star athletes of the show (and show-stealer Brittany Wagner).

Isaiah Wright

RB Isaiah Wright, along with academic advisor Brittany Wagner, have the most powerful storylines in the season to me. You may remember Wright from season 1 as the backup back who took over for DJ Law as the first string back battled injuries. He performed well on the field, and was one of the few players to return to EMCC for a second year.

As such, we get to learn more about the running back in season 2. On top of battling injuries, from a concussion to a high ankle sprain, we learn about his fiance and the miscarriage she suffers during the season, which he doesn’t seem to tell the coaching staff about. It gave me a lot of empathy for him, and showed a side of him that even the coaching staff didn’t seem to know about, which made some of his actions and resistance to their guidance understandable.

Also check out this highlight reel from Wright’s season at EMCC. That flip into the endzone is NASTY! I could watch that all day. Wright’s teammates celebrate accordingly. I can’t wait to see what he can do at West Georgia.

De’Andre Johnson

You may remember hearing QB De’Andre Johnson’s name before. He’s the former FSU QB who was caught on video punching a woman in a Tallahassee bar. His actions got him kicked out of Florida State, and made transferring difficult. But Stephens and EMCC gave him a chance.

I think the show handled this incident well. Johnson is shown as remorseful, as a young man who made a (what he calls out of character) mistake. His parents are interviewed, and they show dismay at the actions of their son. Stephens mentions that he’s going through counseling and anger management.

Johnson made a terrible decision, regardless of whether it was caught on video or not, and whether he would still be at FSU had the video not been released is a different story. But Johnson does at least begin the redemption process, and he’ll be joining Lane Kiffin and some other EMCC alums at FAU in the fall. What happens next is all up to Johnson; it’s easy to not make mistakes in a place like Scooba where there’s nothing to do.

Kamonte (Kam) Carter

Kam Carter is a defensive linemen who was kicked out of Penn State due to failing three drug tests for marijuana use. He’s portrayed very poorly by the show, and has a difficult relationship with defensive line coach Davern Williams. Carter falls victim to WIlliams’ ‘roll’ punishment, where he makes a player

It all comes to fruition in the second-to-last episode of the season, where Carter and Williams get into a heated argument at practice when Williams discovers that Carter has once again skipped class. The two have to be separated by other players and coaches.

“Who was that?” we hear a scout who had been watching practice ask Williams as they walk off the field.

“Kam Carter,” says. “You do not want him.”

Later in Brittany Wagner’s office, Carter gets scolded by his advisor and his fellow defensive linemen Jay Williams.

“You know damn well you were wrong,” Jay Williams says to Carter. “...you think that you got offers and shit, let’s see where the offers go. How long you gonna have ‘em? Imma tell you what coach gonna do to him...in June, we gonna see this dude right here, nowhere. Back in Maryland. Won’t be playin’ no ball, unless he go DIII. You barely can make it [in] JUCO, Kam. You fuckin’ ass, Kam.”

“I belong at ‘Bama,” Carter replies.

“You belong at ‘Bama. Yeah, your height and size belong at ‘Bama, but you don’t,” his teammate replies. Wagner listens in silence as the scene ends.

Despite how the show presents him, Carter will suit up for Pat Narduzzi and Pitt in the fall. The talent is there, but whether he’ll be able to make it to the field might be a different story.

Dakota Allen

Dakota Allen was my favorite storyline from the second season. It honestly baffles me how he ended up at EMCC: he had a strong season at Texas Tech but was kicked off the team for burglary charges. The man portrayed in the show obviously gets a favorite edit, but comes across as a well-rounded, level-headed man who cares a lot about school (something that can’t be said for many of his teammates) and is willing to help others succeed in the classroom.

On the field he’s pretty good too, as he was the Lions’ leading tackler in 2016. He was allowed back to TTU for the 2017 season; hopefully his mistakes are put behind him. Here’s a nice profile about his attempt for redemption.

Chauncey Rivers

Chauncey Rivers is another great story throughout the second season. Kicked out of Georgia over marijuana chargers, Rivers is portrayed as a kindhearted kid with a strong bond to his mother. In episode 6, we see the coaching staff yelling at her in a playoff game and attemping to kick her out over her comments about the Lions coaching staff not watching film.

Rivers comes to bat for her and makes sure she gets to stay at the game, telling some random spectators to keep her in line. He can also spit some bars; one episode also shows him rapping the below song about his relationship with his mom and how it drives him.

Rivers will suit up for Mississippi State in the fall.

Brittany Wagner

I can’t even attempt to write something about Brittany Wagner, the Lions’ Academic Advisor that hasn’t already been said. This woman goes above and beyond her duties as assigned to make sure these kids have a stern but compassionate role model at EMCC that makes sure they go to class and barely pass the classes they need to in order to get back to DI football.

But the job clearly takes a toll on the single mom. In the seventh episode of the season, we see Wagner clearly exasperated with her job. At the end of the season, she leaves EMCC to form 10 Thousand Pencils, an academic advising organization where she’ll take her dedication and passion for student success around the country to help students. More on that here and in her tweet below.

I wish nothing but the best to Ms. Wagner, and think she has the drive to make an impact in the lives of a lot of students. But man, I’ll miss seeing her interacting with the students; it’s one of my favorite parts of the show.

P.S. Check out this awesome recruiting video from South Carolina that emulates the show’s title sequence: