The University of Iowa announced Tuesday that defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski is leaving for a position at another school.
It wasn’t a surprise.
The rumblings started early Sunday, when Footballscoop.com reported that Nebraska coach Bo Pelini targeted Kaczenski for an opening on his staff. Then Tuesday afternoon, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz issued this statement:
“Defensive Line Coach Rick Kaczenski has decided to leave our staff for another coaching opportunity. During the last five years, Rick contributed greatly to our program. We wish Rick and his family the best.”
According to a source, Kaczenski told Iowa D-linemen Tuesday that he wouldn’t be coaching them in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma on Dec. 31.
A Nebraska official said Tuesday night that there was no announcement from Nebraska’s side. It’s purely circumstantial, but there also was a private flight from Iowa City to Lincoln, Neb., on Tuesday night.
Kaczenski, 36, started at Iowa as a graduate assistant in 2005. He spent two years working with Iowa’s offensive line before moving to defensive line coach in 2007.
Kaczenski recruited Florida for the Hawkeyes. Safety Jack Swanson’s contributions on special teams has been about it for Florida contributions this season, but plenty of Kaczenski’s Florida prospects have potential, including quarterback Jake Rudock and defensive back Torrey Campbell. Also, Kaczenski was the lead recruiter for wide receiver Greg Mabin and defensive end Daumantas Venckus, a pair of recruits committed to Iowa’s 2012 class but yet unsigned.
Pelini is searching for a new defensive coordinator after Carl Pelini, his brother, vacated the position for the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic. Nebraska D-line coach John Papuchis has been rumored to be in line for coordinator, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
Papuchis also holds the titles of recruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator and that’s why a move within the Big Ten to a similar position (possibly) would make sense for Kaczenski.
According to UI records (link to Iowa assistant salaries), Kaczenski was the lowest-paid member of Ferentz’s coaching staff, making $179,280 in 2011. Pelini hired away secondary coach Corey Raymond a month after he accepted a job at Indiana last year for $200,000. Kaczenski doesn’t hold any other title at Iowa except D-line coach. If Papuchis became defensive coordinator, he would likely need to relinquish recruiting and special teams.
That might allow Nebraska to pay Kaczenski in the $225,000 range, a considerable raise.
Either way, Iowa is losing its second defensive assistant this month. On Dec. 11, defensive coordinator Norm Parker announced his retirement.
Does secondary coach Phil Parker move into defensive coordinator? Does staff assistant LeVar Woods get the bump to secondary coach? Who fills the D-line opening? Does an outside candidate emerge at D-coordinator, someone along the lines of Arizona Cardinals D-line coach and former Iowa D-line coach Ron Aiken?
Woods helped on the staff while Norm Parker was out for nearly nine weeks last season after having part of his right leg amputated due to diabetic complications. Woods played linebacker for the Hawkeyes and was a linebacker/special teams standout for the Arizona Cardinals.
This is the first time since 2000 that Ferentz has had two openings to fill on his coaching staff. Quarterbacks coach Chuck Long and tight ends coach Pat Flaherty left Iowa. Long became passing game coordinator at Oklahoma; Flaherty went on to be tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins. They were replaced by Lester Erb and Reese Morgan.
This will be the eighth staff change in Ferentz’s 13 years at Iowa.
HawkeyeReport.com contacted a few Iowa recruits for reaction to the news on Kaczenski.
Venckus had perhaps the most negative reaction, telling HR.com, “That’s not good news… I’m surprised, shocked… I’ll have to talk to my parents about it.”
Illinois D-lineman Jaleel Johnson said, “Yeah, I heard about that and that doesn’t affect my decision at all.”
Recruiting is in a dead period right now. That means coaches can’t make home visits and recruits can’t visit campuses. Coaches are allowed to contact a recruit with one phone call a week.
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