February 4, 2013 10:16:15 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
In his five seasons as head coach, Buddy Stephens has placed the East Mississippi Community College football program among the nation's elite.
The Lions have won two state championships, two bowl games, and one national championship. While the success of the program starts with a high talent level, continuity on the coaching staff has been another key element.
That changed last week as EMCC announced the hiring of four new assistant coaches.
"We have been blessed to have one of the best coaching staffs in the nation," Stephens said. "When you have success, you know your coaches will be in a position to have new opportunities. We were incredibly fortunate for it to take this long for there to be change.
"While we lose some, we are excited about the new coaches that are coming in. Each brings an incredible amount of experience, and each will be a big addition to what we are trying to do."
The first domino fell in December when associate head coach William Jones became head football coach at Pearl River C.C. Jones also served as the Lions' defensive coordinator and was an integral part of the program's success.
"Pearl River got an excellent football coach," Stephens said. "Pearl River has a tradition-rich program. The expectations are very high there, but they got a coach who will work hard to meet those expectations."
EMCC new defensive coordinator is Jordan Lesley. He worked last season as defensive line coach at Northwest Mississippi C.C. A former player at Troy University, Lesley has six years of junior college coaching experience, including two stints at Kilgore College and NWCC.
Also coming to Scooba from NWCC is Andy Greening. With three decades of coaching experience, Greening has spent the past 13 seasons in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College's North Division, working at Northwest and Northeast Mississippi C.C.
Greening will coach linebackers at EMCC. At NWCC, Greening was the defensive coordinator, after a five-year stint as the head coach at NEMCC. A graduate of Mississippi State University, Greening also played at NEMCC.
Both coaches changed jobs after the retirement of Woods as coach at NWCC.
"When you hire coaches, you look at experience," Stephens said. "I think we did a tremendous job of bringing in coaches who have been around the junior college game in this state. They know what it takes to recruit, coach, and succeed at this level."
Tony Gilbert joins the EMCC coaching staff after one-year stints at Auburn University and the University of Georgia. At EMCC, Gilbert will coach the defensive line and also coordinate the strength and conditioning program.
A former standout linebacker at Georgia and a veteran of the NFL, Gilbert replaces Jimmy Brumbaugh, who left EMCC to take a position as defensive line coach at the University of Kentucky. A sixth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, Gilbert played seven years in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cade Wilkerson was promoted from graduate assistant to a full-time assistant coach to complete the changes. He will work with running backs and special teams, and coordinate video services. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi.
EMCC (8-2) won the MACJC North Division title last season. It saw a 20-game winning streak snapped with a one-point losses to Itawamba C.C. It lost to Copiah-Lincoln C.C. in the first round of the playoffs.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter