This spring, the ordinarily media shy Craig Kuligowski took a few minutes to speak with ShowMeMizzou.com about how his defensive line is taking shape. Last year’s Defensive Line Coach of the Year, Coach Kool, or Kool, as he often called, usually doesn’t have much to say to the media, and he usually sticks to coach speak, or clichés. He’s seen Bull Durham, so he knows the routine. Even if Kool does speak, he almost never heaps praise on young, unproven, or developing, players. For Kool, Spring Football is about getting guys ready to play, and helping his players get better every day.
“The more better players you’ve got, the more it helps,” said Coach Kool. “The more guys you have who can produce at an SEC level, the better for your team. So, that’s what we’re looking for.”
“Our job is to get these guys better every day,” explained Kool. “Where these guys were last year, they should be better right now than they were last year. And when we get to the season, they’d better be better than they are right now. And at the end of spring ball, these guys better be better.”
Coach Kool likes the competitiveness of his guys. He said that he likes to see that his guys are upset when they lose a practice to the offense.
“They’ve got to come out here with the attitude to get better every day,” said Kool. “And they have been very good, I think, about not just coming out here, and well, it’s just another day. No. They’re looking to win every day. I like it that they get upset when they don’t win. I like it that they’re that competitive.”
With just one returning starter up front, there’s some player development that needs to take place. Returning starting defensive tackle Harold Brantley has become a de facto leader along the defensive line.
“Harold is our best returning player,” explained Kool. “No question about it. He’s our best returning player. He just needs to keep working on (being a leader). He’s just got to step up.”
Kool emphasized that all of his players just need to keep getting better.
“They just need to be their own leader, you know, challenge themselves every practice,” explained Kool. “If they can get better every day, then they can lead other guys also to get better. It’s my goal for them to be the best player they can be.”
Kool talked about some of his other defensive linemen.
“Right now, we’re just trying to get better, and (identify) who our best guys are,” explained Kool. “We take whatever ingredients we’ve got, and we make the best recipe we can.”
Regarding Josh Augusta, Coach Kool said that he’d like to see more consistency.
“(Josh Augusta) has some experience,” said Kool. “He’s got to be a much more consistent player. You know, we’ll see about that. He’s got to become much more consistent.”
Coach Kool gave a positive report on Rickey Hatley.
“Rickey’s about 300 pounds right now,” explained Coach Kool. “And, he’s put on good weight, too! I’m pretty proud of him. I want him to figure he’s going to start. Then, we’ll figure out who’s going to start after that.”
Coach Kool has challenged A.J. Logan to earn his way into the playing rotation.
“(A.J. Logan) is coming along,” said Kool. “I think he’s getting better. He’s a guy we expect to battle for playing time. And hopefully, he expects that, too.”
Regarding Marcus Loud, Coach Kool said that he has to keep getting better if he wants to hold onto his starting job.
“I hope that (Marcus Loud can step up),” explained Kool. “You know, there are other guys behind him.”
Kool was a little more patient and upbeat with respect to Walter Brady.
“(Walter Brady) is like one of the kids who shows up to football in July for the first time,” Kool explained. “But with that being said, he showing some pretty good promise so far. And the thing I really like about that kid is that his competitive nature has been displayed very quickly. He’s a guy that hopefully will continue to get better. He’s got a lot of fundamental work to get better at. You would expect that with any (new) player. But I’m pretty pleased with him so far.”
Finally, I asked Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom what he thinks of Charles Harris?
Coach Odom said that he’s learning about Charles Harris, and that he likes what he’s seen.
“I’ve been around (Charles Harris) a little bit now,” explained Coach Odom. “You can tell it’s extremely important to him to be a very good player. He’s a focused young guy who’s working hard to be his best.”