Big on Wagner
Arkansas freshman makes his way to Fayetteville from Illinois.
FAYETTEVILLE — Offensive lineman Dalton Wagner grew from 6-3 as a freshman to 6-9 as a senior at Richmond-Burton High School in Spring Grove, Ill.
“As much as Dalton grew, he never went through that awkward phase at all,” Richmond-Burton Coach Pat Elder said. “That’s when we thought we had something special, because it was all such a natural CLASS Freshman
POSITION Offensive lineman
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-9, 315 pounds HOMETOWN Spring Grove, Ill. HIGH SCHOOL Richmond-Burton AGE 18 (born Oct. 5, 1998)
NOTEWORTHY Early enrollee who went through spring practice . ... Worked at guard and tackle on both sides of the line, but finished the spring at right transition for him.
“He was so aggressive and physical off the ball. Normally guys his size in high school don’t grow into playing that way until they’re a little older.” Wagner became a three-year starter for the Rockets at offensive tackle . ... Consensus three-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247sports. ... Rated as the top offensive tackle in Illinois by Scout . ... Other scholarship offers included ones from Louisville, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana . ... Parents are Brad and Nancy Wagner . ... Father was an offensive lineman at Western Illinois . ... Brother Bryce is an offensive lineman at Southern Illinois. tackle.
“He’s a perfectionist,” Elder said. “He’s a good technician and wants to do things right.
“I was really impressed during his junior year, and then especially his senior year, how much a student of the game he became. He wanted to know not only what he needed to do and where he needed to be, but where the guy next to him needed to be.”
Spring Grove is about 65 miles north of Chicago and Wagner’s play caught the eye of someone else from the area — University of Arkansas, Fayetteville offensive line coach Kurt Anderson. Anderson was a Parade High School All-American linebacker at Glenbrook High School in Glenview, Ill., and then became an All-Big Ten center at Michigan.
Wagner signed with Arkansas and is now playing for Anderson.
“Dalton’s body is going to change, but you’re talking about a guy that’s broad-shouldered and narrow-waisted,” Anderson said. “He looks like those 6-6 tackles that are put together the way you want, except he’s just a bigger version of them, which is kind of unheard of.
“He’s a monster of a man and he’s got really good feet. He’s also a very, very smart guy.”
Wagner said he focused on improving his agility and quickness as he continued to grow.
“If you’re big and slow, you’re just kind of out there,” he said. “So I’d have my workouts at school and then go see a personal trainer after that.
“I also did do some yoga in high school and that helped tremendously. Just working on the body control.”
Wagner enrolled at Arkansas in January so he could go through offseason workouts with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert and take part in spring practice. He also went through three bowl practices.
“Coming in early was definitely one of the top three decisions of my life, having all this extra time with Coach Herb and Coach Anderson,” Wagner said. “I’m getting to know the other offensive linemen, learning the plays. It’s been so unbelievably beneficial.
“If I’d stayed at home, I’d have thought I was working hard, but you’re not really working hard until you come down here.”
If enrolling early is one of Walton’s top three decisions what are the other two?
“Coming to Arkansas is at the top of the list,” Wagner said. “Then after that and coming in early the third-best thing I’ve down is getting a scooter to ride around while I’m here.”
Wagner, 315 pounds, said his size hasn’t been an issue riding a scooter.
“Surprisingly, it’s really not that bad,” he said. “I probably look really goofy on it, but it’s so awesome compared to walking or seeing if somebody can give me a ride. I love the thing.”
Wagner could have stayed close to home with scholarship offers that included Illinois, Purdue and Indiana, but said he wanted to play in the SEC after visiting Arkansas.
“You go to Big Ten schools and you get the treatment, but there’s a different mentality down here in the South and that really caught my attention,” he said. “It’s a lot more aggressive down here.
“The attitude is, ‘We’re here to get stuff done.’ Playing in the SEC is big. You can’t go wrong doing that.”
Wagner also wanted to play for Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema, who led Wisconsin to three consecutive Big Ten championships before being hired at Arkansas on Dec. 4, 2012.
“I was a big fan of what Coach Bielema did at Wisconsin,” Wagner said. “When I visited here, I was just dumbfounded going, ‘I’m actually sitting in Bret Bielema’s office and he’s saying he wants me to come play for him.’ It was just an awesome feeling.”
Wagner practiced at guard and tackle on both sides of the line, but finished the spring at third-team right tackle.
“I was really happy with Dalton’s spring,” Anderson said. “He was physical. When he gets his hands on you, he’s going to maul you. That’s obviously a great place to start.
“You’d rather start there than with a guy who’s maybe lightning quick, but a little soft and you have to try to harden him up. You’d rather teach a guy blocking angles as opposed to teaching a guy how to be tough. You don’t have to teach that to Dalton.”
Wagner’s highlight tape for college coaches started with a play from his junior season when Richmond-Burton played North Boone.
“They put in this defensive lineman to go against Dalton that was about 6-1, 190 pounds,” Elder said. “Pretty athletic kid. They thought he could beat Dalton with speed.”
Wagner studied his opponents, but said he doesn’t remember the defensive lineman’s name.
“I’d never heard of him,” Wagner said. “The moment I took my inside step, he slowly came out of his stance, and I just kind of took him for a ride.
“I blocked him for 15 yards and deposited him. I don’t think I hurt him. He was probably a little upset. They didn’t put him in anymore after that.”
Elder said Wagner should be a great match for the Razorbacks’ physical style on offense.
“Dalton loves everything about being a lineman,” Elder said. “He likes a 4-yard gain as much as he likes a 40-yard gain, because he knows they both help you get where you want to go. I think that’s part of what attracted him to Arkansas.”
Razorbacks senior center Frank Ragnow said he has been impressed by Wagner’s work ethic.
“You can tell he loves football,” Ragnow said. “You don’t have to worry about him putting in the hard work.
“He always plays 100 miles per hour. You even might have to slow him down to get him play a little more under control, but he’s going to be special because he has that want-to.”
Wagner, who got some second-team work at tackle in last Saturday’s scrimmage, said he was glad to work at all four guard and tackle spots in the spring.
“Coach Anderson wants to put the next best guy in, regardless of position,” Wagner said. “You might be going in at guard or at tackle, so you need to know all the positions.
“In the spring I think he just wanted to see if I could fit in at guard, and I actually rather enjoyed it. At guard you’ve got two big dudes next to you and you can be more dominant in the run game.
“The pulling is awesome at guard, too. I just need to make sure I hit the right guy.”
Arkansas freshman offensive lineman Dalton Wagner was rated as the top offensive tackle in Illinois by Scout.com. “He’s a monster of a man and he’s got really good feet,” Razorbacks assistant Kurt Anderson said.
Arkansas offensive tackle Dalton Wagner said his decision to enroll early was among the top three decisions of his life.