Craig Kuligowski: Hurricanes defensive line showing early signs of success

More from defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski on his unit (we wrote about Gerald Willis and several other players in a story running in Friday’s paper):

In this image from a UM-produced video, defensive tackle Gerald Willis cools off during a practice. (YouTube)

In this image from a UM-produced video, defensive tackle Gerald Willis cools off during a practice. (YouTube)

Click here to see rosters for the Miami spring game

Six tidbits from Thursday’s practice 

Mark Richt’s goal: welcome back the ‘U family’

Kuligowski and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz have said they want to rotate defensive linemen, especially tackles — Diaz has compared his aggressive scheme to a full-court press in basketball. Has anyone emerged from a DT group that includes Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh (currently working as first-stringers), Willis, Courtel Jenkins and Anthony Moten?

“Maybe by the end of the year we’ll know if there’s one standout guy,” Kuligowski said. “They’ve all been pretty close. One guy does this better, one guy does that better. … Hopefully we can use their talents in the right situations.”

On the finer points Willis needs to hone:

“He was very raw in terms of technique from Day 1. We’re asking guys to do things our way. It’s not an our way or the highway sort of thing, but we believe this is the best way. He’s been in a few places with a few different really good coaches and I think he’s gotten better in his pass rush in terms of technique, how he’s using his hands, using his hips, his get-off the ball, his counters on the first move, those kind of things. He’s got a good motor. His energy level is good. All of those things getting better, it’s going to be fun to see how good he can be.”

Willis has been praised by teammates and the previous coaching staff for his aggression. Does he have the animalistic mentality all defensive line coaches prefer?

“I think he’s got a little bit of that,” Kuligowski said. “I think everybody’s got a little bit of it. We’re not there. We’ll get there. But we’re not there right now, in terms of guys show up like, ‘I’ll outwork anybody, I’ll outrun anybody, I’ll hit anybody.’ We’ve taken steps toward that, but we’re not all the way there.”

Kuligowski also noted that Miami’s defensive line has “got to get bigger and stronger as a group. We’ve got to get tougher as a group. We’ve got to get more persistent in terms of our attack. If we do that, we’ll be good.”

Is there a leader emerging now?

“I don’t know if we have one guy stepping out as the main alpha dog or anything like that,” he said. Defensive end “Quan Muhammad is somebody the guys respect, so he has a little bit of natural leadership ability to him. But we’re not quite at the level we need in terms of leadership. We’ll get there.”

Noteworthy: former Hurricanes defensive tackle Earl Moore, who is still attending classes at UM, transferred to Toledo according to the school.

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