With the announcement that Dave Steckel was leaving as Missouri defensive coordinator to join Missouri State as their head football coach, the most valuable assistant that Gary Pinkel had on his staff was defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski. The Missouri Tigers best position that has generated the most pros in recent season comes from the defensive line that “Kool” coaches.
So why would Kuligowski leave a gig like Missouri, where he’s had success and been with Pinkel for 23 seasons? Was Kuligowski bitter over the fact that he wasn’t named as the replacement to Stec? If he takes the Illinois job, he’ll have the title as “co-coordinator.” It’s not necessarily a lateral move, but at the same, he’s still not a defensive coordinator. It just doesn’t seem like a coach of Kuligowski’s stature would make a sideways move just to try something different. Is it likely Kuligowski could replace Tim Banks who just completed his third season as Illinois’ defensive coordinator? They were calling for Banks’ job after the 2013 season. He was hired in January 2012 as part of Tim Beckman’s first staff at Illinois.
The timing of this news comes just days after Pinkel announced that former player and Helias Catholic head football coach Phil Pitts was joining the staff as a defensive analyst, where Pitts will be responsible for focusing on assisting new defensive coordinator Barry Odom with a day-to-day evaluation of the Missouri defense, which includes self-scouting, as well as various other duties related to the operation of the football program. (That’s straight from the Tigers’ mouth).
This could be a natural move up for Pitts, who compiled a 40-15 record while winning district championships each year and finishing as Missouri Class 4 state runner up in two of those years (2012 and 2013). Prior to that, Pitts was an assistant coach on the Helias staff for six seasons (2005-10).
He also played in 40 games at Mizzou as a defensive lineman. For Pitts, d-line was his natural position, and he was in Pinkel’s system. “Here’s a guy who came through our program during our building phase, and he demonstrated great leadership in some difficult times, and clearly had a passion for the game of football. He’s done great things at a first-class program like Helias, and we are looking forward to Phil adding his skills to our team,” Pinkel said.