For 15 years Craig Kuligowski roamed the sidelines of Faurot Field, producing multiple NFL first-round picks while helping lead Missouri to Big 12 and SEC division titles.
This Saturday, Kuligowski will be on Alabama’s sideline when the Tigers come to town. Known as the man behind “D-Line Zou,” the longtime Missouri defensive line coach wasn’t retained when Barry Odom replaced Gary Pinkel as the Tigers’ football coach.
Coach “Kool” wound up at the University of Miami for two seasons before joining Alabama for this season. Kuligowski played offensive line at Toledo, where Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban coached him for his senior season.
“He was a good offensive lineman,” Saban said on Wednesday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference. “He’s very intelligent, smart, tough. He was a great team guy and a good leader. He’s got a lot of those same characteristics as a coach. He’s been a good addition to our staff.”
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Missouri quarterback Drew Lock and offensive linemen Kevin Pendleton and Paul Adams remember going against Kuligowski’s defensive line in 2015, his last season with Missouri. The three said they can see similarities between Kuligowski’s old lines and what they’ll see on Saturday.
“It reminds me of Shane Ray and Markus Golden,” Pendleton said. “It’s little things like what they do with their hands and what they’re doing on third down. It’s all stuff you’ve seen. It’s not new to us.”
Pendleton added he can tell what a Alabama lineman is going to do based on his stance and hip positioning, which was something he learned as a freshman on the scout team going against Kuligowski’s players.
Lock, from Lee’s Summit, said Kuligowski has a different kind of player at Alabama than what he was known for under Pinkel. Kansas City products like Bishop Miege’s Ray and Lincoln Prep’s Charles Harris were speed rushers who pressured the quarterback off the edge.
“These guys are more big body-typed guys,” Lock said. “They’ll really push the pocket. Nothing crazy as far as Shane Ray coming off the edge. They’re going to suffocate you.”
While Alabama’s run defense is ranked No. 49 nationally, the Tide are No. 10 in sacks with 19 through six games. Kuligowski’s star pupil this season is defensive tackle Raekwon Davis, a 6-foot-7 projected NFL first-round pick.
Missouri senior Terry Beckner Jr. is the lone Missouri player who was specifically coached by Kuligowski. Adams acknowledged the talent Kuligowski has at Alabama, but hopes he’s remembered for what he did at Missouri, because he helped give the program national exposure.
“He had some talent here as well,” he said. “I got to watch him coach the hell out of them. It will be good to see him.”