Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill's son, Brent, is a redshirt freshman vying for the Blue Raiders' starting quarterback job.
Chuck Cook/Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State football coach Rick Stockstill is getting a taste of what his father went through as his high school coach.
He can also relate to what’s running through the noggin of his son, Brent Stockstill, who is one of three quarterbacks vying to be Blue Raiders starting quarterback this coming season. Coached by his father, Coach Stockstill is now living the other side of the equation: formerly as a player who just so happened to be the coach’s son, and now as the coach who just so happens to be the player’s father.
"I have been exposed to it and been around it," said Stockstill, the nine-year MTSU coach who was star quarterback under his father, Joel Stockstill, while playing at Fernandina Beach (Fla.) High School.
Later as a standout quarterback and team captain at Florida State, Stockstill watched legendary Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden coach his own son. At assistant coaching stops starting in 1983 until he became MTSU coach in 2006, he witnessed several examples of coaches coaching sons, so he got a taste of what it could be like to coach his own, should the occasion arise.
"I am going to embrace it," Stockstill said. "I am going to enjoy it, because I have missed so much time and so many games of him growing up."
Brent Stockstill was a standout at nearby Siegel High School, originally signing to play at Cincinnati under coach Tommy Tuberville. While steadfastly saying throughout the recruiting process he wouldn’t attend MTSU, the tug of playing for his father — plus the opportunity to pitch for the MTSU baseball team — kept him at home.
"The biggest reason was that I can play two sports here," said Brent, a freshman who attended MTSU last season but did not participate in team drills, leaving the southpaw with four years of eligibility.
During spring football practice, MTSU baseball coach Jim McGuire will have Brent Stockstill available as a reliever for home games only.
"This system here, I thought fit me a little bit better in the long run than it did (at Cincinnati)," Brent Stockstill said of playing football at MTSU. "When it got down to it, not many people get the opportunity to do what we are doing right now. It’s special for a father and a son to get to spend each and every day together. That’s something you can’t pass up."
Quarterback is one of several key positions the Blue Raiders must fill following last year’s 8-5 campaign — a record that included going 6-2 in their Conference USA debut before losing to Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Blue Raiders will certainly have a different look during spring practice with five starters returning on offense to go with eight on defense. Graduated is three-year starting quarterback Logan Kilgore, one of the more prolific passers in program history.
That leaves the younger Stockstill battling with third-year sophomore Austin Grammer and redshirt freshman AJ Erdely for the starting job that the coach says won’t be decided until preseason drills in August.
"I like all three of them," Rick Stockstill said. "I’m not in a hurry to come out of spring and say this guy is going to be our starter after only 15 (spring practices). I don’t think it’s fair to us to make that decision. And I don’t think it is fair to any of those three quarterbacks. To say that after 15 days this is going to be the starter, I don’t think it’s fair."
It matters not that Brent Stockstill is the coach’s son. Instead, he feels his teammates feel the same way.
"I think they look right past it," he said. "I don’t think anybody recognizes it. I’m another guy out there, another guy competing."
It certainly doesn’t matter to MTSU offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, who will have a large part in deciding which of the three hopefuls becomes the starter. Only Grammer has college game experience, taking 151 snaps in 10 games last season as Kilgore’s backup.
"It’s the head coach’s son," Faulkner said. "But I was hired here to do a job, and I am going to do my job. I don’t treat Brent any different than I would treat any of the other kids. It won’t be any different."
But just as quickly, Faulkner said he would do the same thing, if he had the opportunity to coach his son.
"If I was Coach Stockstill, and I had the opportunity for my son to be on the team, then I would do the same thing," Faulkner said. "What a lot of people don’t realize, I went to him several times throughout the recruiting process begging coach Stock that I wanted to take his son and have him be part of this program. I would have recruited him anywhere else, so why can’t we recruit and take him here?"
Stockstill the coach knows Stockstill the player knows that whichever quarterback gives the team the best chance to win is which one will be starting.
"Brent is a very mature young man," Rick Stockstill said. "He knows the best player is going to play. And that’s how I am going to approach it. I just want to embrace this time. I want to enjoy it. I want him to enjoy it. I don’t want him to put any added pressure on himself. During those two hours of practice, yeah, he’s still my son. But he’s a player then, and I’m his coach."
And how do you think Rick Stockstill’s dad handled coaching his son?
"He’s a hard-nosed guy," Brent said of his grandfather. "I don’t know for sure, but I bet he was pretty hard on him. He gives me advice and pointers all the time on how to deal with things and just go play ball every day."