IOWA CITY — Fall classes at Iowa begin on Aug. 26, but the education has been ongoing for Hawkeye offensive lineman Mark Kallenberger.
The sophomore from Bettendorf is listed behind third-year starting left tackle Alaric Jackson on the Iowa preseason depth chart but continues to practice at guard as the second week of fall camp continues.
It’s a position he first sampled during spring practices, an experiment of sorts as coaches work to assemble the strongest possible front five as the Hawkeyes work toward their Aug. 31 season opener against Miami (Ohio).
With Jackson and another third-year starter, Tristan Wirfs, entrenched in the starting tackle positions, the idea is to see if the 6-foot-5, 291-pound Kallenberger can help Iowa at guard.
“I’m willing to go wherever they want me to go,’’ Kallenberger said. “Initially, guard was a little different for me. It was a little rough at the start, different from what I was used to at tackle. But, I’m working at it and getting comfortable there.’’
From the perspective of offensive line coach Tim Polasek, the path to playing time for Kallenberger — or any of the other Hawkeyes currently filling reserve roles — boils down to one thing.
“He’s got to find a way to win more reps than he loses,’’ Polasek said. “That’s what we’re looking for, guys who will win that one-on-one battle against the guy across from them 85 percent of the time. That’s the objective.’’
That’s what Kallenberger continues to strive to accomplish.
Seeing action in four games a year ago as a redshirt freshman, he welcomes the opportunity to build off of that and grow on the foundation that has provided him.
“It’s hard to believe that this is my third camp already, but while camp is never easy I feel like I’m more comfortable now than I’ve been in the past,’’ Kallenberger said. “The experiences that I’ve had are helping me now and I continue to try to learn from everything that goes on.’’
The experience of playing behind Jackson and Wirfs has been beneficial as well.
Jackson earned all-Big Ten recognition a year ago and joined Wirfs in receiving preseason all-league mention this season.
“They’re two good guys to learn from. From the work they put in with (strength and conditioning coordinator Chris) Doyle to how technically sound they are in the way they go about playing their positions, they provide a pretty good example of how to do it the right way,’’ Kallenberger said.
Kallenberger said Jackson has proven to be a good mentor in helping him grow his game as well.
“He does a really good job of pointing things out and helping not only me, but the other guys, too, with things that will help make us better players,’’ he said.
Jackson, Wirfs and senior twins Landan and Levi Paulsen are working to help develop the next generation of Hawkeye offensive linemen.
“They’re providing great leadership to everybody in our (offensive line) room,’’ Kallenberger said. “They’re taking the time to help the younger guys. They’re working to get everybody ready to contribute when they are needed in a game.’’
Kallenberger said the group isn’t getting ahead of itself.
He said at this point in camp, energies remain centered on fundamental work and developing the cohesion that it will take to move the Hawkeye offense forward.
“The idea right now is to make the most out of every day of camp and get ready for Miami (Ohio) and the opener,’’ Kallenberger said. “We have a good amount of experience back and there is good potential on our offense but we’re going to have to earn everything we get one game at a time.’’
Kallenberger appreciates that as much as anything.
He understands that experience and growth create opportunity.
The year he redshirted as a true freshman after twice earning first-team all-state recognition at Bettendorf provided Kallenberger with a chance to acclimate himself to the collegiate game.
Last season, he learned as he took the field in Hawkeye wins over Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Maryland and Illinois.
“Every little bit is helping me. The experiences are giving me a taste of what it takes to compete at this level and understand how fast and how hard you have to play if you want to accomplish what you set out to do,’’ Kallenberger said.
“I see them all as being necessary steps, chances to learn and improve. Every step is helping me become better prepared for when the opportunity does come. It’s all helping me become the best player I can be, better tomorrow than I am today. That’s the way it has to work.’’