Nebraska captain Maliek Collins on Monday night quickly shut down any notion that ex-defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski has been giving current Husker players negative messages during a rough 2-4 start.
“Just for the record, he wouldn’t say anything like that,” Collins said. “I’m a captain. If he were saying those types of things, he’d be saying them to me and that ain’t what I represent. Just for the record: He hasn’t said anything like that.”
When Collins was told that a few ex-players — including Jason Peter and Adam Carriker — insinuated Kaczenski was trying to negatively influence the players, Collins said “it’s just something else to distract us, man.”
“We’re trying to stay on a straight and narrow road and trying to win some games,” Collins said.
Collins said he still maintains a positive relationship with Kaczenski.
“I respect the hell out of the man,” Collins said. Collins declined comment when asked for his opinion of former players critiquing his relationship with Kaczenski.
In a conversation with The World-Herald on Sunday night, Kaczenski — who coached Nebraska’s line from 2012 to 2014 — confirmed he’d been in contact with some of his ex-players but that the contact was “all positive.” Kaczenski, who moved out of Nebraska in August, now lives near South Bend, Indiana — home of his alma mater, Notre Dame — and attends Fighting Irish games.
Last week, coach Mike Riley shrugged off concerns about ex-coaches contacting players. Monday, defensive line coach Hank Hughes said any contact from ex-coaches has “zero to do with anything.” Hughes says he keeps in touch with former players he coached, as well, although not those currently in school, because he’s coaching at a different college.
“I’d pick up the phone and call them in heartbeat, but it can be construed that you’re tampering with a guy,” Hughes said.
But Kaczenski, fired along with the rest of coach Bo Pelini’s remaining staff after the Holiday Bowl, is not in coaching this season.