The latest in a lengthy line of jewels

Aug. 11, 2007

Editor’s Note — Iowa Football Camp Central inside hawkeyesportscom will provide avid Hawkeye football fans an exclusive inside peek at the preseason practice of the 2007 Iowa squad. The site will contain articles, photographs and notes on the progress of the Hawkeyes as they prepare for the season opener Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

IOWA CITY — Through the seasons University of Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz has surrounded himself with talented football players. But he has also loaded the program with outstanding and gifted assistant coaches. The promotion of Rick Kaczenski from graduate assistant offensive line coach to head defensive line coach is the latest in a lengthy line of hiring gems of understudies who have professed their loyalty to Ferentz and the Hawkeyes.

“This is a great opportunity for me and certainly a privilege to be part of Coach Ferentz’s staff, to be able to work for Iowa in the Big Ten and remain in this community,” said Kaczenski, after taking a recess from the first of two practices Saturday, Aug. 11. “You don’t get into coaching thinking you’ll ever end up on this level. Now that I’m at this level, hopefully I can take advantage of the opportunity and make these guys a little better each and every day.”

Kaczenski, a native of Erie, Penn., played college football at Notre Dame, where he was a three-year starter on the offensive line (1993-96) for Coach Lou Holtz. He was on the staff at South Carolina from 1999-2001 as a graduate assistant working with the offensive line and receivers. He coached the offensive line at South Carolina State (2002) and the offensive line and tight ends at East Tennessee State (2003) and Elon University (2004) before joining the UI prior to the 2005 season. He replaces Ron Aiken who was on the Hawkeye staff for eight seasons before the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals called in the postseason. Aiken left behind a talented corps of defensive linemen, which made the transition to fulltime coaching smoother for Kaczenski.

The UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will stage its annual “Kids Day at Kinnick” on Saturday, Aug. 18. The UI football team’s practice that day will be open to the public. Gates to historic Kinnick Stadium will open at 11 a.m. with the two-hour practice beginning at approximately 1 p.m. A 30-minute autograph session for young and old fans of the Hawkeyes will be staged immediately after the practice. Admission to “Kids Day at Kinnick” is free.

“The first thing about Coach Aiken is that he’s an unbelievable man with high family values,” Kaczenski said. “He’s a great friend and an unbelievable coach. Some of these guys have been coached by Coach Aiken with his discipline and the expectations he set for them. He made sure these guys took care of the details and did the little things. They knew how to line up long before I got here and that’s made it a lot easier for me.”

The 2007 Hawkeye defensive line enters preseason camp as one of the strongest areas on the team. It includes veterans Kenny Iwebema, Matt Kroul, Mitch King and Bryan Mattison with Adrian Clayborn, Rashad Dunn, Anton Narinskiy and Chad Geary knocking on the door and providing crucial depth. Iwebema, Kroul, King and Mattison have all been named to a preseason all-Big Ten team and Iwebema has been named third team All-American by Street & Smith’s and the No. 10 defensive end in the nation by Phil Steele’s Preview.

“I expect these guys to come out and give us great effort each and every day and each and every play,” Kaczenski said. “We want them hustling around, running around and getting after it. That’s all we can ask. When these guys step on the football field it’s a work day and this group understands that.”

From Media Day until the first two-a-day practice, two themes have remained constant for Kaczenski:

1) Don’t waste a day, and

2) The team still has a long, long way to go.

“You can see the improvement, that’s for sure,” Kaczenski said. “The guys are working hard. They control effort and paying attention. If they come out and they’re paying attention and giving a great effort, good things are going to happen.”

Mattison has been feeding off Kaczenski’s energy level.

“He gets after us and that’s what we need,” Mattison said. “He doesn’t allow us to take any breaks. He’s a great coach and he’s looking out for our best interests.”

Iowa opened camp Monday, Aug. 6 and the Hawkeyes are working toward the first game against Northern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

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