SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When Andy Ludwig looks out at a Utah football practice, he sees a few noticeable differences from a decade ago. The football facilities are much more elaborate. The athletes are bigger and faster.
Ludwig has similarly undergone changes as an offensive coordinator. It is reflected in how he is approaching his second stint under longtime Utes coach Kyle Whittingham.
His playbook is like a living thing.
“It’s continuing to evolve and will evolve the remainder of my career,” Ludwig said as the team opened fall camp this week. “I’m just trying to make sure we’ve got enough different schemes that fit the current roster. We’ve got a lot of talent on this roster. We’re going to pick the best plays to highlight their skills and abilities.”
If Ludwig’s offense can match the level of success it enjoyed when he coached for the Utes from 2005 to 2008, Utah could live up to the preseason projection that it will win the Pac-12.
During Ludwig’s first stint as offensive coordinator, the Utes twice finished second in the Mountain West Conference in passing offense. Utah led the league in total offense in 2005 (473 yards per game). The Utes finished first in scoring offense in 2008 (36.9 points per game) — the year of Utah’s BCS-busting run that ended with a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
Ludwig moved on to successful stints as offensive coordinator at California, San Diego State, Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt before deciding to return to Salt Lake City in January.
Whittingham welcomed back a coordinator who has an offense that fits his own coaching philosophies. He sees many of the ingredients that made the scheme successful a decade earlier still in the mix.
“There’s more similarities than differences,” Whittingham said. “Just little tweaks here and there. The route structures. Maybe some additions to the run game. But the basis and the philosophy is not much different.”
Utah’s players are embracing Ludwig’s offense with enthusiasm. It is a bit slower and features more huddles between plays than what they’ve run in the past. Still, they are seeing and absorbing aspects of the game in a whole new way.
Senior quarterback Tyler Huntley said Ludwig has helped him recognize multiple defenses better than at any other time in his football career.
“He’s teaching me things I’ve never been taught before,” Huntley said. “I continue to want to learn from him and he’s continuing to teach me. I can’t wait to see what this season has got in store for us.”
For his part, Ludwig is relishing the chance to work closely with Huntley. The quarterback threw for 1,788 yards and 12 touchdowns last season before missing the final five games with a broken collarbone. Huntley ranks 11th at Utah with 4,259 career passing yards. Ludwig feels like they’ve just scratched the surface on his true potential.
“He’s a football fanatic and works very hard at it,” Ludwig said. “He did a super job over the summer with his strength and conditioning and then studying the game. Tyler is putting himself in a position to play the best football of his career.”
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