TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — They call him "Coach Kool," although that's not a nickname that Craig Kuligowski earned at Alabama.
For the third time this season a new prominent Crimson Tide assistant coach will be facing the program where he made a name for himself as a collegiate coach coach. Kuligowki spent 15 years at Missouri coaching the defensive line for head coach Gary Pinkel, a former teammate of Nick Saban's at Kent State.
Alabama hosts Missouri for homecoming on Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN).
“Coach Kool’s a beast, man," said one of Kuligowski's latest projects, nose tackle Quinnen Williams. "He’s a really great pass-rush coach and a run-stop coach. He just brings all the energy to the defensive line room. He just brings a lot of technique skills in pass-rushing, a lot of great hand skills pass-rushing. And just his energy in general.”
Alabama's overall run defense hasn't quite come together, although that's probably more of a reflection of having eight-plus new starters than anything, but the sacks are up. With senior defensive end Isaiah Buggs leading the team with six, the Crimson Tide is tied for 17th in the nation with 19 sacks (3.17 per game).
Before spending two seasons at Miami, Kuligowki had 24 all-conference players, four first-round NFL draft picks and 12 selection overall at Missouri. Among them was defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who in 2012 led all SEC linemen in tackles (75) and named All-SEC.
That same season saw the emergence of Michael Sam, who was named the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and became Missouri's first defensive First Team All-American since 2001. Shane Ray was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year on 2014 and was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
Former Texas A&M assistant Jeff Banks has already faced the Aggies, and former Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos went up against the Razorbacks last week. Both were among the six new faces added to the coaching staff during the offseason, as special teams/tights and quarterbacks coach, respectively.
Like with Enos, who was a standout quarterback at Michigan State from 1987-90, Kuligowski had a prior history with Saban as a player. He was a starting offensive tackle at Toledo when Saban was the head coach in 1990, and named All-MAC.
"He was an offensive lineman and a really good offensive lineman," Saban said. "He was very intelligent, smart, tough. And was a great team guy and a good leader. I think he’s got a lot of those same characteristics as a coach even though he’s coaching the defensive line, which is pretty much what he’s always coached.
"He’s been a good addition to our staff."