Chris Klenakis sees improvement in offensive line


Photo: Liz Ulrichson/Iowa State Daily

The ISU offensive line participates in a sled drill during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, at Bergstrom Indoor Training Facility.

Alex Halsted

The offensive linemen slam into the blocking pad again and again and again.

Each time the group crushes into the pad, ISU offensive line coach Chris Klenakis can be found right behind pushing his players harder. The veteran coach has 23 years of Division I coaching experience but is currently in his first with the Cyclones.

“Banging your head against the sled all day, it makes you a little angry,” said starting left tackle Brock Dagel. “It makes you more willing to make some blocks.”

The Cyclones allowed 19 sacks in 13 games during the 2012 season, ranking them No. 35 in the nation for the fewest sacks allowed.

After being coached by Bill Bleil for the past four seasons — Bleil now coaches the team’s tight ends — the line is learning new techniques from Klenakis. He also brings a new style of coaching with a fiery personality.

“He won’t let anything slide, and he’s a very high-energy coach as well,” said Daniel Burton, a redshirt freshman on the line. “The things he wants us to do, we get done. If you ever watch practice, he’ll be right behind us, running right behind us every play.”

Klenakis came to Iowa State in January after spending the last three seasons coaching the offensive line at Arkansas. His Razorback line allowed the third fewest sacks in the Southeastern Conference last season.

The Klenakis seen on the practice field and the one who will soon be highly visible at Jack Trice Stadium is much different off the field, his players say.

“He’s a very intense, fly-around guy on the field,” Dagel said. “Then come meeting room time he wants to coach, he’s very calm.”

The current offensive line includes some youth behind the starting group. That group, though, showed Klenakis vast improvement in the team’s tune-up scrimmage Saturday as the Aug. 31 season opener against Northern Iowa nears.

“I thought our second [group] scrimmaged a lot better Saturday than they did the first scrimmage,” Klenakis said. “They were the most improved unit.”

“There’s guys in the second unit that are good enough to help us with the first unit. Not the whole unit, but there’s a couple of guys that we could play and we’re not going to lose anything.”

Klenakis couldn’t quite put a number on how deep his line will go in 2013.

“I’ll go as [deep] as we’re good enough to go,” Klenakis said. “I’ve had units I’ve only went with five. If I don’t trust the sixth guy, I won’t play him. If I trust eight, I’ll play eight.”