Media Day Transcript with Rick Kaczenski

There are new faces on the Iowa football team each year, but one of the hallmarks of the Kirk Ferentz era has been the continuity within his coaching staff. Few men have left once arriving in Iowa City, but Ron Aiken took a job with the Arizona Cardinals last year. In steps Rick Kaczenski to take his place. Hear from Iowa's first year defensive line coach in this Q&A...

Q: Matt Kroul has been around now for a long time. How come it seems like he is the guy everyone talks about wanting to get rid of?

Rick Kaczenski: I know I don't. Matt has been a solid performer. He is a guy, he is one of those lunch pail guys that comes to work every day. He doesn't have to say much, he leads by his actions. Matt has a great attitude, he gives great effort and he has the right demeanor. He likes football and he goes to work and improves. That is what is expected from him this fall.

Q: When you walked into your first defensive meeting, what did the guys think about your taking over?

Kaczenski: I was the rookie. Being around these guys for a few years, which helped the transition. I have big shoes to fear with Coach Aiken leaving and the progress he made here, but I am in a great situation. These guys know the ropes; they understand the strength program, Coach Ferentz and what it is to be a Hawkeye. The thing for me is learning how to teach defensive line, trying to establish an attitude and our defensive staff has helped me out. It has been a good transition. For me it has been great, hopefully it will be a great marriage for the players, too.

Q: What do you ask Matt (Kroul) to do most plays? It seems at that three-technique position, he is a point of attack guy, what is his role?

Kaczenski: To be honest, across the board, each guy has the same role. We want them to come across the line and be physical and find the football and make plays and give great effort. If guys play with pride and effort and they have the right attitude, good things will happen. Matt comes to play each day and he quietly improves.

Q: Where does Chad Geary fit in the mix?

Kaczenski: We are hoping that somebody will emerge. Chad, we feel he has some tools. He missed some spring football practice, so this is very important for him right now. We have a lot of practices, three weeks ahead of us. We set the bar pretty high for him. We are really going to push him and we want to see him emerge.

Q: Some people say that Iowa's defensive line is too small, especially in this day and age of 330-pound offensive linemen.

Kaczenski: I think you look at our strength program and the work that Chris and his staff do, and the way that our guys play. I don't feel that us being ‘small' is a disadvantage. A lot has to do with the attitude and the approach we take every snap. When we break that huddle, you have to prove yourself 70 times a game. We don't talk about size or worry about how much the other guys weigh, we are more concerned about the attitude and the approach that we are taking each time we break the huddle.

Q: Does Iowa put more of an emphasis on conditioning, to outlast the other guys?

Kaczenski: We are going to try to come across every snap. In the trenches, both sides are trying to establish the same thing. It's a tough battle in there, and we are all trying to accomplish the same things. I can't give enough credit to Chris and his staff and the job they do with our players. That is one of the biggest reasons why Iowa has been so successful under Coach Ferentz. Those guys were here all summer, and they don't leave. They have a great approach and attitude going into this fall camp. It is something that we are lucky to have the strength program we have, and the bar has been set long before we got here. We anticipate they will rise to the challenge.

Q: The guys said last week in Chicago that you were feisty.

Kaczenski: Being an offensive lineman, or coaching offensive line or playing defensive line, you have to have a little intensity about yourself. I am still a young buck, I have a lot of energy in me and we all love football. It's great. It's a privilege to be out here and I hope I get that across to my players, that I am enjoying this as much as they are. We come out here and it's a work day for me and for them. The one thing, I am going to try to make it as uncomfortable as I possibly can.

Q: For them or for you?

Kaczenski: For both, but more on them. That is the Big Ten. It is a rough schedule.

Q: Were you coached that way?

Kaczenski: Coach Joe Moore. He was my position coach in college. Coach Ferentz's high school coach, too. He is our mentor. You will never be comfortable, he kept you on edge but he had you prepared. That is my job, to make sure these guys are ready to go on Saturdays.

Q: Is that what this unit needs? Last year, one could argue that they underperformed, although injuries were a factor?

Kaczenski: We are looking ahead right now. You don't want to forget about last year, keep it in the back of your mind. But these guys have been working. We have a great opportunity in front of us. To get better, to play 12 games. We know none of them will be easy, that is the only guarantee that we have all tough games. As far as the other stuff, we are trying to move forward. We will make sure that life will be uncomfortable. Camp is not made to be easy.

Q: How much was Joe Moore a part of getting you this job?

Kaczenski: Yeah. The way the whole coaching circle and family is. I actually coached at Erie Cathedral Prep with Joe. Then I went down to South Carolina as a graduate assistant for Coach Doyle's college roommate. It's a small circle. Unfortunately I ran into Chris at Joe's funeral. It was something we had talked about staying in touch. I was at a small school in North Carolina and Chris asked if I would be interested in being a GA here, and I took the first thing smoking out of town. You are a young offensive line coach and you have a chance to be with Coach Ferentz, Coach Morgan and learn from the offensive line at Iowa? It was a no brainer. Coach Moore, he is my tie to all of these guys and he is my mentor.

Q: You talked about making things uncomfortable at camp; is a part of the mentality to make practice uncomfortable so games seem easy?

Kaczenski: I guess it's just more to make sure that these guys come to work every day. Everybody is starting camp all across the country, and everyone has high expectations. Nothing is guaranteed except that we have 24 opportunities to get better and we can't waste one of them. It's my job as a coach, at that position, to hopefully push these guys and not let them waste a day. These guys, they have the right attitude and the right demeanor. I want them to improve each and every day and understand that this is a great time, football, no classes, no distractions. This is a great time of year to maximize that opportunity to improve. When I say uncomfortable, nothing is going to get by. I am no different than any other coach here. I have a lot of energy, just love to coach these guys. What I mean by uncomfortable is that nothing will get by them, I will let them know.

Q: Talk about the progress Karl Klug has made.

Kaczenski: Like all our guys, I hate to keep saying it, but we expect him to improve. He missed the spring with the back injury. He had a great summer from all the reports I have. He is getting his weight up. We liked him out of high school, he had a lot of tools. He is refining those tools, getting him caught up. We have a great group of guys, with a ton of potential. I am sure over the next three weeks, we will find out more.

Q: Was it an easy transition from offensive line coaching to defensive line coaching?

Kaczenski: That has helped with my learning curve. That and the defensive staff, taking me under their wings and showing me the ropes. Definitely, there are some things coming into this that I didn't know about the defensive line. Actually, everything. I didn't know anything (laughs). Having those older guys who have played a lot of ball helps out.

Q: What can you provide given your background on the offensive side?

Kaczenski: The one advantage is that these guys didn't have to get to know me and vice versa. Coach Ferentz makes them know what is expected of them, how they are to handle themselves. It was a very easy transition going into it. I was a little nervous about learning schemes and things like that, but football is football. It comes down to fundamentals. We stress that here. It was an easy transition, knowing the guys, knowing their personalities and them knowing mine, that made the move a lot easier.


Hawkeye Insider Top Stories