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New Evangel assistant coach Dennis Darnell is ‘no rookie’

August 30, 2013 | Evangel University News

The extended preseason for the Evangel football team — the Crusaders don’t open until Sept. 14 — has had its share of benefits.

Besides getting new players acclimated to the program, the extra practices have allowed head coach Brenton Illum and a host of new assistants to implement their schemes.

The most well-known of those assistants is new offensive coordinator Dennis Darnell, back in Springfield after two years as Missouri State’s offensive coordinator in 2004 and 2005. Illum was a defensive assistant for those Bears teams.

“Dennis has been a very good friend of mine for the past nine years,” said Illum after Darnell’s hiring in February. “I learned so much as I worked alongside him on the Missouri State staff and to now have his knowledge, experience and work ethic here at Evangel is such a boost to our program. Dennis is of the highest character and I know that he will take our offensive schemes and personnel to the next level.”

It’s been a winding road for Darnell, now in his 45th year of coaching. Evangel is the latest stop in a career that has spanned high school to the top level of college.

Darnell has been an assistant at Northern Colorado, New Mexico, Utah State, Drake, Southeast Missouri State, Wake Forest and Wichita State and has served as a head coach at East Central (Okla.), Missouri Western, Republic High School and Sullivan High School.

While Darnell was the offensive coordinator at Missouri State, the Bears averaged 350 yards and 27 points per game while setting seven school records.

Darnell was an offensive lineman at Missouri State from 1966-68 and graduated from MSU in 1969.

Now, he’s in charge of improving an Evangel offense that was already among the best in the NAIA last season.

The Crusaders averaged 32.7 points and 468 yards a game last year. Quarterback Andrew Brimhall threw for 2,834 yards and 22 touchdowns, and wide receiver Jesse Vaughn caught 60 passes for a school-record 1,283 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to Heart of America Athletic Conference offensive Player of the Year Honors and a first-team all-american nod.

“Spring was tough,” Illum said. “We went from a very successful scheme to changing things up. But coach Darnell is no rookie. He knows what works and he’s proven that.”

Senior quarterback Andrew Brimhall said that while it’s taken time to get used to the changes Darnell wanted to make, there won’t be wholesale changes.

“Putting the new offense in, in the spring was tough. But some things never change,” Brimhall said. “We had success running the ball and running play-action last year, and I think we’ll be successful with those things again this year.”

This story was written by Chris Basnett of the Springfield News-Leader and published August 30, 2013. 
Photo by William Griffin

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