Over the weekend, the Missouri Tigers lost a key part of their 2014 success.

No, it wasn’t Markus Golden or Shane Ray.

It was defensive coordinator Dave Steckel.

He was introduced as Missouri State’s new head coach on Sunday, leaving the SEC for an FCS school.

So now Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel finds himself in a position that he doesn’t experience a lot. In fact, whenever he fills the coaching vacancy left by Steckel, it’ll be just his fourth new coordinator in 14 years.

But fortunately for Pinkel, he won’t have to look very far for a replacement because there’s no one that deserves the job more than defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski.

Familiarity with Pinkel

A head coach wants to have trust with his assistants. And when evaluating candidates for a coordinator position, trust is the most important aspect about a potential hire.

Well, there’s arguably no one on the coaching staff that Pinkel should trust more than Kuligowski.

Kuligowski and Pinkel have spent 23 seasons together on the same coaching staff. In addition to being with Pinkel at Missouri since 2001, he also was a part of Pinkel’s staff at Toledo from 1993-95 as the tight ends coach.

And thanks to all of the time they’ve spent together on the Missouri staff, Pinkel has developed a lot of respect for Kuligowski and the coaching job he’s done along the Missouri defensive line.

“I think you’ve got to give a lot of compliments to Craig Kuligowski,” Pinkel said back in September. “The consistency of how the defensive line plays, what we have going now, it helps us recruit because of the success we have going now.”

No one understands what Pinkel wants or expects out of his coaching staff more than Kuligowski, which would make for a seamless transition from Steckel to Kuligowski.

On-field production

Although Missouri is relatively young in its SEC history, the Tigers have already developed a strong reputation as one of the best pass rushing defensive lines in the conference.

Every year, the Tigers produce stars along the defensive line, and a huge credit for that goes to Kuligowski.

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Since 2010, Missouri has produced 11 all-conference selections between the Big 12 and the SEC from the defensive line, including this year. Shane Ray also took home SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and is expected to be a top pick in the NFL Draft.

Simply put, Kuligowski gets the most out of his players. Senior Markus Golden realizes a big reason why he’s had so much on-field success is because of his defensive line coach.

“Everywhere,” Golden said on what areas Kuligowski has helped improve his game. “Mostly just pass rushing moves … Coach was able to teach me a bunch of different pass rushing moves that I can use throughout my career.”

As you can see from Golden’s comments, players respect Kuligowski. He’s played a huge role in many of Missouri defensive players’ careers and developing them throughout their collegiate career.

His player development is especially impressive, considering the level of talent that comes to Missouri from high school. The Tigers are constantly having to develop two or three star players instead of the four or five-star athletes that regularly attend Missouri’s SEC counterparts.

And Missouri’s consistency along the defensive line shows just how Kuligowski excels at identifying under-the-radar talent and then bringing them to their full potential during their three or four years at Missouri.

Kuligowski is more than a proven commodity on Pinkel’s coaching staff.

His on-field results speak for themselves and if Pinkel wants a guy that’s going to produce, Kuligowski is his man.