Coach Dennis Wagner has continued the storied tradition of the Husker offensive line as Nebraska implemented the West Coast Offense the past three seasons.Along the way, Wagner has quickly gained a reputation as one of the top offensive line coaches in the country.
In 2006, Nebraska’s line improvement and depth led to a resurgence on offense as the Huskers soared to 14th nationally in total offense while ranking 23rd in both passing offense and rushing offense. Sophomore tackle Matt Slauson earned second-team All-Big 12 honors for his play while several other Huskers earned valuable experience for the future. Nebraska lost two offensive linemen in the regular rotation from the 2006 campaign, but returns seven players in 2007 who started a game last season. The impressive group of returnees has led some preseason publications to rank the Husker offensive line among the nation’s top units.
During his initial season in Lincoln in 2004, Wagner's proteges cleared the way as the Husker offense averaged 176 yards rushing and 187 yards passing per game in its first season away from the option ground attack. In 2005, the Nebraska line made significant gains in setting up the passing game. It helped first-year quarterback Zac Taylor set Husker records, including single-game (431) passing yards against Iowa State, while Kurt Mann was a second-team All-Big 12 selection.
Wagner came to Nebraska from Fresno State where he served as assistant head coach and offensive line coach for seven years. He quickly helped Fresno State’s offensive line become one of the top units in the country as his O-line was ranked among the top 10 in 2002 by The Sporting News. His offensive linemen helped NFL No. 1 pick David Carr post record-shattering passing numbers in 2001 (4,299 yards, 42 touchdowns passing), while running back Paris Gaines rushed for more than 1,000 yards and the team averaged 501.6 total yards per game.
In each of his last two years at FSU, one of his linemen earned first-team freshman All-America honors, including tackle Logan Mankins (an eventual NFL first-round selection) in 2002 and center Kyle Young in 2003. Wagner helped Head Coach Pat Hill lead the Bulldogs to bowl games in each of Wagner's last five years.
A native of Waverly, Iowa, Wagner has other Midwest and Nebraska ties. He was the head coach at Wayne (Neb.) State from 1989 to 1996, leading the Wildcats to a 44-37-1 record. He quickly turned around the Division II program which had lost 12 consecutive games just prior to his arrival and had only won two of its last 29 games. For his efforts, Wagner was inducted into the Wayne State College Hall of Fame in 2005.
Wagner was named the Nebraska Coach of the Year by the Omaha World-Herald in 1990 and 1993. In his last four seasons at Wayne State, the Wildcats finished no lower than third nationally in total offense, leading the nation with 581.5 yards per game in 1993.
Before his eight-year stint at Wayne State, Wagner coached four seasons at St. Cloud (Minn.) State from 1985 to 1988, serving as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He also oversaw the strength and conditioning program at SCS.
Wagner has more than two decades of coaching experience. He has also served as an offensive line coach at Luther College in 1980; served on the UNLV football staff in 1981 and 1982 where he coached the tight ends and offensive line; was the head track coach at William Penn College in 1983; and served as assistant strength coach for UNLV’s PCAA and California Bowl championship team in 1984.
Wagner was a team captain his senior season at Utah, earning All-WAC honors and honorable-mention All-America honors as an offensive guard. He was a junior college transfer from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College where he was a JUCO All-American and team captain as a center.
He and his wife, Cyndi (Newhall, Iowa), have a daughter, Whitney, and a son, Joshua. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Utah in 1982 and his master’s degree in athletic administration from St. Cloud State in 1987.
The Wagner File
Date and Place of Birth: Born on March 9, 1958, in Waverly, Iowa
Family: Wife, Cyndi; daughter Whitney (15); son Joshua (8)
Education: Utah, bachelors in psychology, 1982; St. Cloud State, masters in athletic administration, 1987
Playing Experience: 1976, Drake; 1977, Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College; 1978-79, Utah
Coaching Experience: 1980, Luther College (assistant coach/offensive line); 1981-82, UNLV (assistant coach/tight ends); 1983, William Penn (head track and field coach); 1984, UNLV (assistant strength coach); 1985-88, St. Cloud (Minn.) State (offensive coordinator/offensive line); 1989-96, Wayne (Neb.) State (head coach); 1997-2003, Fresno State (assistant head coach/offensive line); 2004-present, Nebraska (assistant coach/offensive line)
Recruiting Emphasis: Omaha, Northern and Central California, Iowa