University of Miami

University of Miami assistant ‘Kool’ instilling ‘monster’ attitude in pass-rushers

Craig Kuligowski, assistant coach/defensive line for the University of Miami Football team, at practice Thurs. March 17, 2016.
Craig Kuligowski, assistant coach/defensive line for the University of Miami Football team, at practice Thurs. March 17, 2016. wmichot@miamiherald.com

One look at University of Miami defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski’s Twitter handle — “LetsMeetAtTheQB’’ — and it’s obvious what he expects from his linemen.

Can you say, “Sack?’’

Kuligowski, who arrived in Coral Gables after spending 15 years as the D-line coach at Missouri, seems to have done an admirable job this spring of instilling a “relentless’’ pass rush — the R-word used often by the Hurricanes and their defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

Former five-star Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas, a rising junior who had two sacks in last week’s open scrimmage, was asked if when he saw Kuligowski’s Twitter handle he “kind of figured’’ what the D-line’s mantra would be.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,’’ the 6-6, 265-pound Thomas said with a laugh Thursday after the last practice at Greentree Field until fall camp. “We’re getting more of a relentless attitude trying to get to the quarterback. They’re setting us free so we’re getting the job done.’’

Ends Thomas, Al-Quadin-Muhammad, Demetrius Jackson (combined six sacks last Saturday) and Trent Harris will be trying to get the job done again Saturday at the UM spring game at 2 p.m. at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

With them will be young first-team tackles Kendrick Norton and R.J. McIntosh, both sophomores, and fellow tackles Gerald Willis, Courtel Jenkins, A.J. Moten and Ryan Fines.

Willis transferred from Florida last year after some rough times and spent 2015 dominating on scout team, according to coaches and players.

“A monster, honestly,’’ is how Jackson described Willis. “He takes the coaching and does everything they ask and more. There’s no stop in him. He’s a relentless pass-rusher.’’

In 2014, Mizzou led the SEC in sacks with a school-record 44. This past season, Kuligowski's D-line helped Missouri rank second in the nation in team tackles for loss with 106, and ninth in total defense.

Miami tied Virginia Tech, Memphis and Louisiana-Monroe for 70th in sacks last year with 26, and 105th with 66 tackles for loss.

“Maybe by the end of the year we’ll know if there’s one standout guy,’’ Kuligowski, referred to as “Coach Kool,’’ said Thursday. “But we’re using all their talent. If we play 80 plays in the game and one guy plays 40 and the other guy plays 40 and they play as hard as they can, we’re going to be pretty good.’’

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Willis said he didn’t look at being on the scout team last season as a negative. “Just grinding and just getting better and waiting on my turn,’’ the 6-4, 280-pound redhshirt sophomore said. “I stayed motivated by the guys. They were like, ‘Your time is coming G. Just keep working, keep grinding. Hold your head up and don’t ever give up.’ ’’

UM coach Mark Richt said “there’s no doubt’’ in his mind that if Willis “stays healthy and does what he’s supposed to do in the summer, he’ll play a bunch of snaps for us.’’

Canes Coach Mark Richt reflects on 2016 UM spring practice and the upcoming Spring Game on Sat., April 16, 2016

Willis indicated the spring game will be vital “for the whole D-line as a group. Looking at what we’ve been doing these last 14 practices, it’s real important,’’ he said. “For me, I’ve been out for a long time, so it [will] feel good to be in a real game environment.’’

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