Notre Dame has a vacancy at offensive coordinator after Tommy Rees took the same position on Nick Saban’s Alabama staff in early February. Where will Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame turn for their new offensive coordinator?
Here at Fighting Irish Wire we’ll be giving you a bio and career summary of some of the coaches that emerge as candidates. We’re also making an effort for some guest contributors who have either followed or covered each potential candidate’s coaching careers.
The most experienced of the known candidates is Utah coach Andy Ludwig. He has more than 30 years of college football coaching experience — some great and some not so hot.
Why is Ludwig a legit candidate and what does he offer as a specialty? Our fourth installment of this offensive coordinator examination looks at Ludwig. Here is what you need to know about the current Utah offensive coordinator.
Age not a turnoff
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Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is easily the oldest of Notre Dame’s reported candidates but with that comes a ton of experience all over the college football landscape. The age also likely means that he’s not looking to use Notre Dame as a stepping stone and instead is probably someone you figure would be in South Bend for some time, assuming he puts out a quality offense regularly.
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A bit of perspective on Ludwig’s age: He was wrapping up his football playing career at Portland State in the fall of 1985 before Marcus Freeman was born. Ludwig played receiver at Snow College (that’s a real place) in 1982 and 1983 before transferring and spending 1984-85 at Portland State.
West Coast Coaching Start
Ludwig’s coaching career began at Portland State, where he spent 1987-88 as a wide receivers coach. From there, he moved onto Idaho State where he coached quarterbacks and receivers for three seasons before making his first of three career stops at Utah in 1992, where he served as a graduate assistant.
DIII Augustana Stint
After his year at Utah, Ludwig took a job at Division III Augustana College (Illinois) of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. He coached the wide receivers and quarterbacks for the Vikings for two years while coordinating the offense. They went 15-4 in his two seasons, including a 13-1 conference mark.
Go West (Again) Young Man
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After two years at Augustana, Ludwig headed back west. He spent 1995 and 1996 at Boise State as the Broncos transitioned from D-IAA to Division IA. They made the jump to D-I in 1996 but went just 2-10 their first year as a member of the Big West.
From there, Ludwig went to Cal Poly, where he helped guide the Mustangs to a 10-1 mark in 1997. He took the OC job at Fresno State, where he’d stay from 1998-2001. His time at Fresno State concluded with a 10-3 record, being named a Broyles Award finalist as the nation’s top assistant and helping quarterback David Carr develop into the top pick in the 2002 NFL draft.
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After his successes at Fresno State, Ludwig took the job as Oregon‘s offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Belotti. He and the Ducks were unable to parlay the success, however. They went 20-17 in his three seasons as OC. Ludwig helped recruit one of the most important players in Ducks history, however. He helped guide quarterback Dennis Dixon to Eugene. Dixon would have the Ducks in national championship contention before suffering a knee injury in 2007.
Utah Stint 2
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Kyle Wittingham is one of college football’s longest tenured head coaches. He took over the Utah program from Urban Meyer in 2005. His first OC at Utah?
Ludwig helped turn Brian Johnson into a college football star and was largely responsible for the Utes scoring an astounding 36.9 points per game in 2008 as they went 13-0 and capped their season with an upset of mighty Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Pac-10 Stop Duex
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Ludwig returned to the Pac-10 in 2009 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Cal. His stay with the Bears lasted just two seasons as the team went 13-12. From there he headed to San Diego State where he led the Aztecs to a 17-9 record in two seasons while scoring 30 or more points 16 times in 26 tries.
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After his success at San Diego State, Ludwig headed to the Midwest to be the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. In two years with the Badgers, Ludwig helped guide the offense to some of the programs most prolific numbers in school history. In 2013, Wisconsin averaged a school record 480 yards per game while averaging 34.8 points per contest.
SEC! SEC! SEC!
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Ludwig tried his hand in the SEC, serving as Vanderbilt’s offensive coordinator from 2015-2018. He also spent time coaching different positions which included quarterbacks, tight ends and running backs.
Utah Part III
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Ludwig’s third stint at Utah has been an astounding success. He has helped guide the Utes to consecutive Pac-12 championships and Rose Bowl berths. Offensive balance has been the key to his success this time around in Salt Lake City. For instance, in 2019 Utah led the Pac-12 in rushing, passing efficiency and completion percentage.
Whether by air or by ground, Utah has been physical and impressive on offense. In 2021, the Utes led the Pac-12 in offense — both yardage and scoring.
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If you want an experienced coach to add to Notre Dame’s relatively young staff then Ludwig laps the field in that department. It’s not just experience, but how he’s been successful that sticks out to me. At times it has been through the air as when he was at Fresno State and helped David Carr hear his name called first in the NFL draft. Other times it has been largely on the ground like at Wisconsin in 2013 when Melvin Gordon and James White both passed the 1,000 rushing yards mark.
For a program like Notre Dame that is national — not just in the sense of fans but in how it attacks recruiting in order to compete with the big dogs – Ludwig has experience in the West Coast. He has experience in the Midwest. He has experience in the SEC.
As I said on Wednesday after reading the Football Scoop report on Notre Dame’s OC search, the lack of comment regarding Ludwig and the Irish spoke louder to me than anything else.