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Dennis WagnerAssistant Head Coach/Offensive Line
College: Utah ('82)
Start Date: 1/5/12
Dennis Wagner brings more than 30 years of coaching experience with him to Liberty, which includes a resume highlighted by two different head coaching stints.
Following his first season with the Flames, head coach Turner Gill promoted Wagner to the role of assistant head coach, with his specific position responsibilities remaining with Liberty's big men up front.
The position is one that Wagner is passionate about, dating back to his collegiate playing days where he earned honorable mention All-America accolades at Utah and All-America honors at Ellsworth Community College.
During his first two seasons with the Flames, Wagner has coached six players to earn All-Big South honors, the most decorated position on Liberty's roster during head coach Turner Gill's first two years at Liberty.
In 2013, four of Wagner's starting five offensive linemen earned all-conference honors, including first-team selection Hunter Steward. Prior to the start of his senior season, Steward was selected in the first round of the 2013 CFL Draft (No. 6 overall pick), making him the fourth player in program history to be selected in the CFL Draft.
After finishing No. 53 in the country in scoring offense in 2012 (27.2 points per game), Wagner's group helped the Flames rank No. 16 in the country with Liberty putting up an average of 37.3 points per game.
Under Wagner's guidance, Liberty has had an all-conference running back the last two seasons. In 2013, Desmond Rice rushed for 967 yards and 16 touchdowns, the second-highest single-season rushing total in program history.
Liberty has also ranked top 20 the last two years in red zone offense and top 30 both seasons in third-down conference efficiency.
During his two seasons on staff, Wagner has helped the Flames win back-to-back shared Big South titles. Liberty also knocked off a pair of top 25 opponents (No. 6 Stony Brook in 2012 and No. 16 Charleston Southern in 2013), marking the third time in program history Liberty has defeated ranked teams in consecutive seasons.
Prior to his move to Liberty Mountain, Wagner spent the previous four seasons (2008-11) as the head coach of the Western Carolina Catamounts.
During his first season in Cullowhee, N.C., Wagner helped Western Carolina snap the third-longest Southern Conference losing streak in league history and post the program's most victories since 2005. During his four seasons as head coach, Wagner saw eight players earn All-SoCon honors.
Prior to his head coaching position at Western Carolina, Wagner worked alongside Gill when both were assistant coaches at Nebraska.
Wagner was part of a coaching staff that helped the Huskers transition from an option-based offensive attack to the West Coast offense, coaching at Nebraska from 2004-07.
While at Nebraska, Wagner helped the Huskers to a pair of bowl games, including a 32-28 upset of No. 20 Michigan in the 2005 Alamo Bowl. He coached two All-Big 12 linemen in 2005 and 2006 and five players who went on to play in the NFL and three who signed free agent contracts.
In 2006, Wagner helped Nebraska rank No. 14 in the country in total offense (414.57 yards per game), while ranking No. 23 in the country in both passing offense (244.07) and rushing offense (170.5).
Before joining Gill on staff in Nebraska, Wagner spent seven years (1997-2003) at Fresno State as assistant head coach and offensive line coach.
During his last five years at Fresno State, Wagner helped the Bulldogs to a bowl game appearance each season, including victories in the Silicon Valley Bowl (2002 and 2003) and the MPC Computers Bowl (2004).
In 2001, Wagner's offensive line successfully blocked all season for quarterback David Carr, who would go on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Carr shattered Fresno State records in 2001 with 4,299 passing yards and 42 touchdowns, while the Bulldogs ranked No. 4 in the country by averaging 497.23 total offensive yards per game.
While at Fresno State, Wagner coached three players who were selected in the NFL Draft, plus three others who signed free agent contracts.
Additionally, Wagner coached NFL Pro Bowl selections Nebraska's Carl Nicks (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Fresno State's Logan Mankins (New England Patriots).
Wagner held his first head coaching position at Wayne State (Neb.) from 1989-96. During his eight years at the helm of the Wildcats' program, Wagner posted a 44-37-1 record, helping Wayne State move from the NAIA ranks to NCAA Division II classification.
He quickly revived the Wayne State program, which had lost 27 of 29 games before his arrival. For his turnaround efforts, Wagner was inducted into the Wayne State College Hall of Fame in 2005. During his last four seasons with the Wildcats, Wayne State finished no lower than No. 3 nationally in total offense and led the country by averaging 581.5 yards per game in 1993.
Prior to his days at Wayne State, Wagner served as an assistant coach for four years at St. Cloud State from 1985-88, two different stints at UNLV (1981-82, 1984) and Luther College in 1980. Wagner also served as the head track and field coach at William Penn College in 1983.
Wagner earned multiple All-America honors during his collegiate playing career, starting with JUCO All-America accolades in 1977 at Ellsworth Community College. He finished up his playing career with two seasons at Utah, where he earned All-WAC honors and was named an honorable-mention All-America at offensive guard.
Wagner completed his bachelor's degree in psychology from Utah in 1982 and earned a master's degree from St. Cloud State in athletic administration in 1987.
Wagner and his wife, Cyndi, have two children – a daughter, Whitney, and a son, Joshua.
Wagner at a Glance
Year at Liberty: Third
2012-13 (2 years) – Liberty (Asst. head coach/OL)
2008-11 (4 years) – Western Carolina (head coach)
2004-07 (4 years) – Nebraska (OL)
1997-03 (7 years) – Fresno State (OL)
1989-96 (8 years) – Wayne State (Neb.) (head coach)
1985-88 (4 years) – St. Cloud State (OC, OL)
1984 (1 year) – UNLV (Asst. Strength Coach)
1983 (1 year) – William Penn (Head Track and Field Coach)
1981-82 (2 years) – UNLV (OL, TE)
1980 (1 year) – Luther (OL)
Recruiting Area: South Central Virginia, Central Georgia, California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Minnesota and Alaska
Education: B.A., Psychology (Utah, '82), M.A., Athletic Administration (St. Cloud State, '87)
Hometown: Waverly, Iowa
Children: Whitney and Joshua