Head Coach / Recruiting Coordinator
Recruiting Area: Florida, Southern California JC’s, Evangel connections
Brenton Illum completed his third season as head coach of the Evangel University football program and last year delivered the school’s first winning season in six years and their first season ending with a national ranking since 2005. The Crusaders went 7-4, 6-3 in the Heart of America conference and ended the year ranked 23rd nationally in the NAIA.
Illum will enter his fourth season as a head coach having gone 14-17 in three years at Evangel. In addition to his head coaching duties, Illum is the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator for the program.
The 1998 Evangel graduate was named head coach on Nov. 24, 2009 becoming the sixth head coach in the program’s 36 year history.
Illum was previously at Western State College of Colorado, an NCAA-II program, where he served as the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach. In 2009, Illum was one of three finalists for the NCAA-II National Assistant Coach of the Year by the America Football Coaches Association following his season at Western State. The award is based on on-field performance as well as service to the community, charitable work, volunteer activities, and the impact on the lives of student-athletes.
Illum was a linebacker for the Crusaders on the 1994 team before an auto accident ended his playing career. He became a student assistant coach for next three seasons and graduated with a degree in Physical Education.
He was an Evangel assistant coach until 2001 when he left to become defensive coordinator, recruiting coordinator and strength coach at Fort Lewis (Col., NCAA-II) College. Illum returned to the Springfield in 2004 joining the coaching staff at Missouri State University (NCAA-I FCS) where he was special teams coordinator and coached defensive linemen in ‘05 and linebackers in ‘04 under head coach Randy Ball.
Illum was born in Chicago, Illinois and graduated from Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas. In his life, he’s lived in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Missouri, Illinois and Kansas.
He is married to Molly (Hawkins) Illum, a 1999 Evangel graduate, who was a standout volleyball player for the Crusaders. Molly is currently the head volleyball coach at Central High School in Springfield.
Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks
Recruiting Area: Texas high schools, Western half of Jayhawk JC Conference
Dennis Darnell will enter his 45th year in coaching and his first year on the Evangel football staff in 2013 as he takes the reigns as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Darnell arrives from Texas State (NCAA-I, BCS) where he spent two seasons as offensive line coach under Bobcats head coach Dennis Franchione. He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri State in 2004 and 2005 under head coach Randy Ball and guided a Bears offense that averaged 350 yards per game and 27 points per contest in each of his two seasons while setting seven school records on offense. Current Evangel head coach Brenton Illum was also on the Bears coaching staff working on the defensive side of ball at the time.
Darnell has also been an offensive coordinator at Northern Colorado (NCAA-I, BCS) and served as an assistant at other NCAA-I programs including New Mexico for seven seasons, Utah State, two stints at Drake, Southeast Missouri State, Wake Forest and Wichita State (in 1973).
He served as head coach at East Central (Okla.) in NCAA-II and was named the Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year in 2001. Darnell also had a five-year stint as head coach at Missouri Western from 1986-1990. He was the head coach at Republic High School in 2006 and also served Sullivan High School as head coach in 1971-72. As a player, Darnell was an offensive lineman for Missouri State from 1966-68 and part of the Bears 1966 MIAA Championship team. He graduated from Missouri State with a degree in Physical Education in 1969.
Offensive Line / Run Game Coordinator / Physical Dev. Coord.
Ben Blake enters his third season with the Evangel University football program and will serve as offensive line coach, running game coordinator and also serves as the team’s physical development coordinator. Blake previously served as offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator at Southwest Baptist for four seasons.
In two years with Evangel, he has led five all-conference selections on the offensive line including first team selection Keith Wright in 2012, EU’s first selection on the first team at offensive line since 2006.
Prior to his stint at SBU, Blake served as an assistant coach at Highland Community College in Kansas for two years and was a graduate assistant coach working with the offensive line and tight ends at Concordia University-Wisconsin (NCAA-III).
While at Southwest Baptist, Blake helped the Bearcats to a 7-4 record in 2010 and assisted to lead a prolific offense. The Bearcats averaged nearly 40 points per game and 504 yards of offense per game including 195 rushing yards and 309 passing yards. The offensive line surrendered just 17 sacks in their 11 games that season.
Blake played collegiate football at Concordia (Wis.) University and was the Offensive Lineman of the Year in the Illini-Badger Football Conference in his senior season in 2003.
He was a three-time all-conference performer and an All-North Region selection in his senior year. Blake played for Prairie Grove High School in Northwest Arkansas and was named to the All-State team in addition to being an all-region selection and was a three-time all-conference performer. He graduated from Concordia University with a degree in business management, a minor in public relations and he earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a marketing emphasis.
He and his wife Alyssa reside in Bolivar.
Special Teams Coordinator / Defensive Line
Todd Drury rejoins the Evangel football coaching staff and will serve as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator.
Drury is a former Evangel player and last season was the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Midland (Neb.) University in the NAIA and Great Plains Athletic Conference.
He served as a graduate assistant coach at Evangel for three seasons and earned a master’s degree in Secondary Education. Drury played four seasons with the Crusaders from 2005 to 2008 as a tight end. He was a team captain and part of Evangel’s Heart of America conference championship team as a freshman in ’05.
In his previous stint with Evangel, Drury coached a variety of positions as a graduate assistant including special teams, wide receivers, linebackers and he served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Drury is originally from Peoria, Illinois. He earned a degree in Social Science from Evangel in 2009.
Defensive Backs / Camp Coordinator
Recruiting Area: Arkansas
One of Evangel’s best players in program history returns to the team as an assistant coach. Edward Sands joins the coaching staff to serve as defensive backs coach and is also coordinator of football camps during the off-season.
Sands was four-time All-Heart of America conference performer playing wide receiver for three seasons before moving to defensive back. For the last two seasons, he has been on the coaching staff at Branson High School and has helped the Pirates advance in the Class 5 state playoffs in both years.
Sands ended his career at Evangel ranked ninth in all-time receiving yards with 1,435 yards in his three seasons at wide receiver. He finished 11th all-time in receptions with 86. In his lone season on defense, he intercepted three passes, finished second on the team in tackles with 60 and received the most votes of any Crusaders player among the all-conference selections that year earned a 2nd team all-league selection.
Sands was originally from Apopka, Florida and graduated from Evangel in 2010 with a degree in Recreation while minoring in Physical Education.
Linebackers / Equipment Coordinator
David Flores comes back to the Evangel coaching staff and will coach outside linebackers and serve as equipment coordinator. He was a running back and tight end for the Crusaders from 2006-2009. Flores spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Avila University under head coach Justin Berna.
Flores was a student assistant coach at Evangel in 2009 and a graduate assistant in Illum’s first season as head coach in 2010. He started his playing career at Evangel as a running and moved to tight end in his senior season. Flores was a standout high school player at Fayetteville (Ark.) High School earning all-conference honors as a linebacker in Class 7A-West. He graduated from Evangel with a degree in Physical Education in 2010.
Wide Receivers / Video Coordina
Dan Wernick will be in his first season as an assistant coach at Evangel joining the staff as wide receivers coach and video coordinator.
Wernick has spent the last two years as an assistant coach at Winona State (Minn.). He served as wide receivers coach last year and defensive backs coach two years ago at the NCAA-II program. Wernick helped the Warriors to a 10-2 record last year and a Mineral Water Bowl victory over Lindenwood. They went 7-4 the previous season.
Wernick played two seasons at quarterback for Culver-Stockton and was named an All-Heart of America conference performer in his senior year. He passed for 939 yards in 11 games while rushing for another 476 yards. Wernick was also an NAIA Academic All-American that season.
The Alma, Michigan native played his first two college seasons at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan and has graduated from Winona State with a degree in Psychology.
The 2013 Evangel football season will be Lt. Col. Dale Garrett’s eleventh on the gridiron staff as he serves as running backs coach. Garrett’s running backs have won 11 all-conference honors, including three first team selections.
Garrett is a 1974 graduate of West Liberty State College where he won seven letters in football and wrestling and captained his senior squads. Until recently, he held the West Liberty State school records for most rushing yards (278) and most rushes (43) in a single game. Upon graduating, Garrett taught at Real Life Christian Academy, directed a group home for troubled youth, and played semi-pro football with the Tuscarawas County Vikings in the Ohio Football League from 1974 to 1978.
In 1979 Garrett joined the U.S. Air Force and retired in December 2002 to assume teaching duties in the Social Science Department at Evangel University. Over the course of his Air Force career, Garrett logged 3,000 flying hours as a B-52 crewmember, commanded three different squadrons, and was awarded the Bronze Star for actions during Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. He served in the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, and was responsible for developing the newest completely electronic B-52, B-1 and B-2 training range in U.S. air space. Garrett earned his Master’s degree from Central Michigan University.
Lt. Col. Garrett and his wife, Martha, have three grown children.
Tight Ends / Equipment Coordinator
(417) 865-2815 ext
Email Coach Garrett
Taylor Higgins enters his first season on the Evangel coaching staff in 2013. Higgins has spent the last three seasons on the Strafford High School coaching staff under head coach Tim Hester, an Evangel alum. In his time with the Indians, he served as offensive coordinator and coached defensive backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Higgins graduated Cum Laude from Evangel in 2011 with a degree in Physical Education and was the PE Major of the Year in 2010-11.
While at Evangel, Higgins worked as a volunteer assistant coach at Hillcrest High School and was part of their 2009 and 2010 playoff teams. He also was an assistant at Pleasant View Middle School at the same time and spent time as a student assistant coach working with quarterbacks during the spring practice.