EMCC’s Buddy Stephens puts finishing touches on 2019 football coaching staff

EMCC’s Buddy Stephens puts finishing touches on 2019 football coaching staff

SCOOBA – Reigning NJCAA Coach of the Year Buddy Stephens of the five-time national champion East Mississippi Community College Lions has put the finishing touches on his 2019 football coaching staff with the hiring of full-time assistant coaches DeCarlos Holmes, Cade Wilkerson, Dontreal Pruitt and Nestor Puertas.

Holmes and Wilkerson return to Stephens' EMCC coaching staff following a brief time away from the Scooba campus, while Pruitt and Puertas have been elevated to full-time status this season after serving as graduate assistant coaches a year ago during the Lions' national championship season. 

Holmes, out of the talent-laden Louisiana high school ranks, returns to the defensive line coaching post that he previously occupied when the EMCC Lions claimed the 2013 NJCAA championship with a perfect 12-0 mark.  Anchored on the defensive line by current NFL players Jarran Reed (Seattle Seahawks) and D.J. Jones (San Francisco 49ers), EMCC's 2013 defensive unit ranked among the nation's top five team statistical leaders in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, interceptions, quarterback sacks and defensive touchdowns.

A former three-year starter on Grambling State University's defensive line, Holmes most recently served as head football coach last season at Washington-Marion High School in Lake Charles, La., after spending the 2016 and 2017 seasons as head coach at Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans.  Along with two different stops at powerhouse Bastrop High School, Holmes also previously had high school coaching and teaching stints at St. Augustine, Woodlawn, Neville, Arcadia, Crowville and Port Sulphur.  He doubled as head football coach and director of athletics at Woodlawn High School in Shreveport.

Wilkerson returns to EMCC for his third coaching stint with Stephens after proving to be a valuable and versatile staff member on Lion teams that posted a four-year composite record of 39-4, including an NJCAA national championship in 2014 and an MACJC state title in 2016.  Having displayed his coaching and administrative versatility during his various coaching stints within EMCC's football program, Wilkerson's primary responsibilities include coordinating recruiting and coaching the running backs and special teams units.  He is also responsible for directing the Lions' overall football operations and the program's video operations.

Most recently, Wilkerson worked as a graduate assistant in the athletics department at the University of Oklahoma for nearly a year and a half assisting in the area of conduct and accountability of OU's student-athletes.  Prior to that between his first two EMCC coaching stints, Wilkerson served as quarterbacks coach at Horn Lake (Miss.) High School during the 2013 football season.  

A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Wilkerson began his coaching career as a student assistant on Northeast Mississippi Community College's football coaching staff during the 2007 and 2008 seasons when his father, David, served as the Tigers' offensive coordinator.  

Pruitt, an NJCAA All-America quarterback for the EMCC Lions during their 2013 national championship year, returned to the Scooba campus a year ago as a graduate assistant and primarily worked with the team's trio of quarterbacks during the Lions' 2018 national championship season.  Pruitt also recently gained valuable collegiate coaching experience as a defensive graduate assistant at Troy University, where he previously spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as a quarterback for the Trojans.  In addition, he returned to his hometown to serve as an assistant coach and teaching assistant within the Laurel School District during the 2016-17 school year.

After quarterbacking Laurel High School to the 2011 Class 4A South State championship in being named to the Class 4A All-State First Team by the Mississippi Association of Coaches and selected to participate in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game, Pruitt developed into a sophomore starter behind center for the 2013 EMCC Lions.  While directing the NJCAA's leading offense during an unbeaten (12-0) national championship season, Pruitt was named 2013 NJCAA All-American First Team and collected Region 23 Offensive Most Valuable Player honors.

Puertas, a native of Miami, Fla., has been promoted to full-time status on Stephens' EMCC football coaching staff after being a vital part of the Lions' back-to-back national championship seasons the past two years.  While previously serving as EMCC's defensive graduate assistant, Puertas will continue to coach the Lions' linebacker corps after having achieved great success during consecutive seasons that produced a 23-1 composite record and successive national and state titles.  Last year, EMCC's vaunted defensive unit topped the NJCAA in scoring defense while allowing the opposition an average of only 11.2 points per game.

Prior to arriving on the East Mississippi scene in 2017, Puertas spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons working on the football coaching staff as a student assistant at Florida International University in Miami.  During his two seasons on the Panthers' staff, he served in a variety of coaching capacities and performed diverse administrative tasks at FIU.  After initially assisting with the day-to-day operations and management of FIU's football office, Puertas was then given additional responsibilities as a defensive quality control coach for the Panthers.