Andy Ludwig will win as Utah’s new-old offensive coordinator next season.
That’s all but certain.
He will build on what Troy Taylor accomplished this past season, only with a comfort zone widened because of his foreknowledge of and familiarity with Kyle Whittingham’s offensive preferences, quirks, biases, leanings, proclivities.
The veteran Ludwig will fit right in, with a less-anxious demeanor, his nose to the grindstone, his mind and methodology soothed and approved as a professional game-planner and play-caller who knows what the boss wants, the kind of attack he endorses. He may get yelled at from time to time, but only because of undesirable and sometimes-uncontrollable results, not on account of the fact that the head coach has no clue what the hell his OC is thinking.
This is important, a significant distinction.
Whittingham, a demanding defensive guy who can be difficult to work for, especially for an innovative offensive thinker who, at times, might want to take some creative risks, and who subsequently would have a hard time explaining why he did, or does, what he did, or does.
Ludwig has already been down that road with Whittingham, when he coordinated the Utes offense from 2005 to 2008. People might remember — and give Ludwig all kinds of credit for — his last campaign at Utah, when the offense did enough to finish off an undefeated season, making Nick Saban’s Alabama team look like stooges in the Sugar Bowl.
That did happen. But so did Ludwig’s offense getting shoved off the field by a hapless UNLV team in 2007, a game in which the 2-10 Rebels beat the bejeebers out of the Utes in a 27-0 shutout. That Vegas team allowed 343 points to be scored against it that season, not one of them coming from Ludwig’s offense.
That was then, this is now.
Ludwig has moved around, making stops at programs far and wide — Fresno State and Oregon, before Utah, and Cal, San Diego State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt after it. He’s bumped and skidded, succeeded and soared along that route, utilizing a balanced kind of spread attack.
He’s willing to run it, pass it, and run it some more.
Longtime Utah fans will remember that there were times in Ludwig’s first stint with the Utes when his called plays, particularly in the red zone, were curious. And there were others when he made rocksteady calls that perfectly fit the down-and-distance.
He developed quarterback Kyle Shurmur at Vanderbilt, in the process lifting an offense that upon his arrival at the school was something of a joke in the SEC and transforming it into a respected, legitimate outfit.
At Utah, he helped Brian Johnson grow from a young, athletic, skittish quarterback into the savvy field commander he became, so much so that Ludwig actually was devalued by some, including some inside the program, who gave credit to Johnson, not the OC, for calling just the right plays in the hurry-up to take advantage of opponents’ confusion.
If Johnson could do that, somebody had to teach him how.
At Fresno State, Ludwig coached up quarterback David Carr, who threw for 4,839 yards and 46 touchdowns. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist. A few months later, Carr was the first pick in the NFL Draft.
At Wisconsin, under Ludwig’s direction, Melvin Gordon went berserk, running for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns in his junior season on 343 carries. That worked out to 25 rushes per game.
That’s called recognizing talent and utilizing it.
The Badgers won 11 games that season, Gordon finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, and a few months later was a first-round NFL pick.
Anybody around here think Zack Moss might have noted and approved of the idea that Ludwig should be Utah’s next offensive coordinator, and that such a decision might have influenced him to return for his senior season?
Tyler Huntley might be grinning, too, in a more limited way.
Ludwig is going to put together a formidable offense in 2019 at Utah, the reason being he’s got talent and experience at the most important skill positions. The new-old offensive coordinator would suck if he had dogs at QB and running back.
Ludwig will do now what Whittingham wants and expects him to do. The head coach won’t be yelling at his OC to run the ball more because he won’t have to. After 32 seasons in college coaching, Ludwig isn’t trying to prove to anybody, especially his boss, how groundbreaking and innovative he is. He’ll want to prove to Whittingham that he’s willing and happy to hand the ball off to Moss and watch him run to daylight.
Fifteen times in his FBS coaching career, Ludwig has coached 1,000-yard rushers, including two during his previous tenure at Utah. With 25 carries a game, Moss could get to 2,000. You can see it now: 2,019 rushing yards in 2019. Perfect.
In a statement, Whittingham said: “It’s great to have Andy back on our staff. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as a collegiate offensive coordinator, as well as being an outstanding quarterbacks coach and recruiter. Andy is obviously very familiar with our program, which should make for a seamless transition.”
Translation: “Andy will run the ball when I want him to, without completely ignoring the throw. But he’ll run the damn ball. Did I mention he’ll run the ball? I think I did.”
Yeah, Andy Ludwig will win and succeed in 2019 at Utah.
Count on it.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.