Rick Kaczenski enters his second season as Nebraska's defensive line coach and his ninth season coaching in the Big Ten Conference.
The 38-year-old Kaczenski faced a challenge in his first season in Lincoln, dealing with multiple injuries on the defensive line, a unit that was down to a rotation of six healthy regular contributors at the end of the seeason. Despite the challenges, Kaczenski's unit helped Nebraska rank first nationally opponent pass completion percentage, fourth in passing yards allowed, ninth in pass effiency defense and 35th in total defense. Led by defensive end Eric Martin, the line helped the Huskers rank fourth in the Big Ten and in the top 50 nationally in sacks.
Martin, a senior who entered the 2012 season with 64 tackles, four TFLs and 2.5 sacks in his career, developed into a first-team all-conference performer in his only season working with Kaczenski. In 2012, Martin eclipsed nearly all of his career totals entering the season, recording 59 tackles, 18 TFLs and 8.5 sacks. He ranked third in the Big Ten and among the nation's top 50 players in sacks.
Baker Steinkuhler earned second-team All-Big Ten honors with 47 tackles and seven TFLs before a season-ending injury at Iowa. With two selections in 2012, Kaczenski's defensive linemen have won 11 All-Big Ten awards the past six seasons.
Kaczenski joined the Nebraska defensive staff after building an impressive resume on Kirk Ferentz’s staff at Iowa. The performance of Kaczenski’s defensive lines played a key role in Iowa’s success the past five seasons. With Kaczenski as a member of the full-time coaching staff from 2007 to 2011, Iowa reached a bowl game in each of his final four seasons, including an appearance in the Orange Bowl following the 2009 season. His defensive lineman earned nine first- or second-team All-Big Ten awards from 2007 to 2011.
In 2010, Iowa ranked sixth nationally in rushing defense (101.5 ypg) and seventh in scoring defense (17.0 ppg). A year earlier, the Hawkeye defense ranked in the top 10 nationally in four defensive statistical categories, including pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense and passing yards allowed. The effort of the front line played a big part in the defensive success, as Iowa posted an 11-2 overall record and a victory over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
The 2008 Iowa defense also ranked high across the board. Kaczenski’s defensive front keyed a group that limited opponents to just 94.0 rushing yards per game to rank ninth in the country. Iowa also ranked fifth in scoring defense, fifth in pass efficiency defense and 12th in scoring defense en route to a 9-4 record and Outback Bowl berth in 2008. In his first season as a full-time assistant in 2007, Iowa ranked third in the Big Ten and 13th nationally in scoring defense, while also leading the conference in turnover margin.
Under Kaczenski, Iowa produced outstanding individual performers on the defensive line. End Adrian Clayborn became the 21st player at Iowa to earn consensus All-America honors in 2010. Clayborn was named the national Defensive Performer of the Year by College Football Performance Awards in 2009. Clayborn was named first-team All-Big Ten in both 2009 and 2010.
Clayborn was the 20th pick in the first round by Tampa Bay in the 2011 NFL Draft, and was one of three Hawkeye defensive linemen selected in that draft. Defensive lineman Christian Ballard was taken in the fourth round by Minnesota, while Tennessee selected defensive lineman Karl Klug in the fifth round.
Defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul led Iowa’s defense in 2008. King was named Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Big Ten while earning first-, second- and third-team All-America honors. Kroul earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after setting an Iowa record with 50 consecutive starts. Both King (Tennessee) and Kroul (N.Y. Jets) signed free agent contracts immediately following the 2009 NFL Draft and have remained in the NFL the last two seasons. In 2007, King was named first-team All-Big Ten and senior defensive end Bryan Mattison earned second-team recognition.
Overall, nine of Kaczenski’s defensive linemen have been drafted or signed NFL free agent contracts over the past four seasons, including four draftees in the past two years.
Before taking over as defensive line coach, Kaczenski served two seasons as a graduate assistant at Iowa in 2005-06, working specifically with the offensive line. Kaczenski joined the Iowa staff after serving as the offensive line and tight ends coach at Elon University in 2004. He served in the same capacity at East Tennessee State in 2003 and was the offensive line coach at South Carolina State in 2002 for Head Coach Buddy Pough.
Kaczenski was on the staff at South Carolina from 1999 to 2001 under Head Coach Lou Holtz. Kaczenski was a graduate assistant with the Gamecocks, working in recruiting while assisting with the offensive line and wide receivers. Kaczenski began his coaching career in 1998 as an assistant coach at Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep, his high school alma mater.
Kaczenski played collegiately at Notre Dame from 1993 to 1997, where he was a three-year starter at center from 1995 to 1997. While with the Irish, Kaczenski helped Notre Dame to four bowl appearances, including a trip to the 1995 Fiesta Bowl and the 1996 Orange Bowl. Kaczenski played in a total of 40 games, and during his career Notre Dame finished in the top 20 in rushing three times, including sixth in 1995 and eighth in 1996.
Kaczenski earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology from Notre Dame in 1997, and he is a graduate of Cathedral Prep High School in Erie, Pa. He was elected to the Erie Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. His brother, Bob, was a member of Penn State’s 1986 national championship team.
Kaczenski was born Feb. 15, 1975 in Erie, Pa. Rick and his wife, Jessica, have a one-year old son, Victor James, and a daughter, Sophia.
Kaczenski Coaching Career
2012, Nebraska, Defensive Line
2007-11, Iowa, Defensive Line
2005-06, Iowa, Graduate Assistant (Offense)
2004, Elon, Offensive Line/Tight Ends
2003, East Tennessee State, Offensive Line/Tight Ends
2002, South Carolina State, Offensive Line
1999-2001, South Carolina, Graduate Assistant (Offense/Recruiting)
1998, Erie Cathedral Prep High School, Offensive Line
Playing Experience: Notre Dame, 1993-97
Degree: Bachelor of Science degree in sociology, Notre Dame (1997)