FAYETTEVILLE — Junior Dalton Wagner started all 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2019, but found himself a reserve in 2020.
However, with Noah Gatlin going down on the first play of the Auburn game it didn’t long for Wagner to make a quick impact in the game. He and senior Ty Clary both got a chance to play extended minutes in the 30-28 loss.
“It felt great to be back in there,” Wagner said. “It felt good to help out the team in any way we could. Me and Ty were happy to get a shot, assist the team. When your number is called, your number is called. You get up in there and you do your job, and that’s what we did, and we moved the ball. We were happy to do that.”
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman praised Wagner for his performance.
” Obviously Dalton Wagner came in and man, I’m proud of him,” Pittman said. “He’s got such a great attitude. He came in and played well.”
Wagner said getting all players ready is something Pittman expects from his assistants.
“The demand, especially from Coach Pittman,” Wagner said. “He expects out of his position coaches to keep everybody ready. Like you said, we try to roll guys out there four deep every day at practice and really try to get everybody reps. That’s really a credit to him and the way he structures practice, and he’s able to get multiple guys in there to play, because that experience is invaluable in practice and then when you take it over to games it’s unmatched. Being able to get those guys ready and have everybody ready is always a big thing. That’s something that I think a lot of teams overlook. Coach Pittman really doesn’t like that. We make sure we address it.”
Wagner said he was ready when his name was called.
“I was as ready as ever,” Wagner said. “You prepare every week like you’re going to start. That’s the way Coach (Brad) Davis treats it. He expects guys no matter where you are on the depth chart to know everything that you have that week. Know everything they’re going to bring blitz-wise, what they’re going to bring front-wise, how those guys play. There’s a lot of accountability out of that room – not even from just Coach Davis, but from the guys around you. Make sure we do group film sessions. We do stuff like that, we study film and plays together and make sure everybody kind of has their job, because you never know what happens. It’s football. Stuff can go wrong one play into the game, and you have to be ready as you can be.”
One emphasis for the offense this week preparing for Ole Miss is the offense avoid a slow start.
“We shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes, but this offense has cleaned up itself every week,” Wagner said. “Coach (Kendal) Briles does an excellent job with his playcalling and making sure, especially during the week, that everybody is in the right spots and that we clean up our errors. He really does a good job hammering home – and all the position coaches, too – and making sure everybody is in the right frame of mind and just ready for the week.”
Arkansas’ offense did turn it around though after the 17-0 deficit. Wagner talked about how they managed to change the momentum of the game eventually taking a 28-27 lead.
“We really just kind of weren’t shooting ourselves in the foot, for one,” Wagner said. “There weren’t missed assignments, I’m sure some technique wasn’t as fundamental as we would like it, but guys were hitting their blocks, getting on guys and tempo helps that a ton, too, as you can see. On that fifth drive we were able to get our tempo rolling there. Once we get tempo going, like, that’s our advantage. It really helps us out.”
Wagner talked about what he has seen from the Ole Miss defensive front on film.
“They’re kind of like most SEC fronts,” Wagner said. “They’re going to switch it up between Okie and sometimes go into four down and go into some Bear fronts. They’re good players, you know? You’re playing in the SEC. Every defensive front you play this year is going to be good. I think they’ve got a lot of talent there and they’ve got a lot of talent at the linebacker level, and it’ll be a good game.”
Considering the Razorbacks haven’t won at home since 2016, Wagner feels this Ole Miss game is big.
“Incredibly important. Coach Briles says it every week: defend your house,” Wagner said. “No matter who rolls in there, we expect to defend our field. Winning at home is always a big thing because, like, it’s home, you know? You have your fans there, you’re in a positive environment instead of a negative environment being on the road. It means a lot to be able to play in there.”
The kickoff for Saturday is 2:30 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. It’s homecoming and will be televised on the SEC Network.