Stryker Sulak was one of the better players on the Mizzou defense throughout his 4-year tenure with the team as he recorded 22.5 sacks in his career. He capped off his solid career by recording 10 sacks in his senior season to lead the defense. Now that Sulak is gone to the NFL, the Tigers must replace him with an inexperienced player just like they must do at many other positions on the defense and offense.
Sulak in 2005: 38 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 FF
Sulak in 2006: 51 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF
Sulak in 2007: 60 tackles, 6 sacks, 4 FF
Sulak in 2008: 49 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 6 FF
The player that will attempt to replace Sulak's production this season will be senior Brian Coulter. This 6-4 defensive end transferred from Florida State last season and actually played a significant back-up role for the Tigers last season. Coulter recorded 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks last year, good numbers for a player who struggled with nagging injuries to go along with his little amount of playing time. He showed spurts of greatness in practices and in games, which has excited Tiger fans for the possibility of him starting in 2009.
Coulter figures to be a part of a explosive 3-man rotation at defensive end this season for Mizzou (Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith being the other 2 members). Sulak was a good player for Mizzou in each of his 4 seasons as a Tiger, but a main problem with his career was his inconsistency. Even though he had an impressive 10 sacks, Sulak wasn't a very physical player in the running game or at the point of attack. He used his dominant pass rush moves and speed to get past offensive lineman rather than running them over. Coulter will bring more of a physical style of play this season but will still also show an ability to use spins and speed to get by offensive tackles.
This spring, Coulter caught the eyes of all of the reporters in attendance because of his tenacity and strength shown at the point of attack. I made the comment to my fellow reporters multiple times that he looked like he was in full out game mode during a simple no-pads practice. The Tigers could use more tenacity on defense after a couple of years of poor overall performances, so the physical presence of Coulter should be a huge lift for the D this year.
Sulak put up some impressive numbers at Mizzou and was very fun to watch, but I think this 3-man rotation at defensive end will help make the defense more complete this season. Coulter will be a key part this year and will finally get his shot to contribute as a starter, something he earned the right to do with his impressive play in the spring.