Coaching Profiles: Better Know the Offensive Coordinator

Last week Rex tackled the new position coaches on the offensive side of the ball.  This week he takes a closer look at the guy they will be working for.  Rex digs into Andy Ludwig's past for hints on what the offense should look like, what types of players excel under his tutelage, and the skills he looks for in players he recruits.

Background: In terms of experience, Ludwig has been around the block his fair share of times, as Wisconsin will be his seventh team in 18 years. His longest tenure was with Fresno State, lasting from 1998-2001. He was with Andersen at Utah when the Utes went to the Sugar Bowl and put up 31 on the Crimson Tide—yes, the program that has won three of four national titles—with his gunslinger throwing for 336 yards and three touchdowns. During that season, they averaged a whopping 36.92 points per game. In terms of quarterback development, he coached Kellen Clemens (Oregon), David Carr (Fresno State) and Billy Volek (Fresno State), who have all made their way to playing on Sundays. He was a finalist for the Frank Boyles Award (top assistant coach) in 2001 after Fresno State finished fourth in the nation in both scoring (40.00 ppg.) and total offense (501.57 ypg.). Moreover, his offense became the first offense in NCAA history to feature a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher in a single season.

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Over the past 15 years, his offenses were extremely balanced in terms of points per game, as they averaged 29.7 points per game and had a low of 25.8 points per game in 2010 with San Diego State.

Style of Play: During his introductory press conference, he stated he'll establish the run first and that the basics of the offensive attack will look the same. “It'll be Wisconsin football.” At least in my opinion, that statement is kind of a no-brainer. What else would he say? “No, I came to Wisconsin to abandon the pro-style offense and run the spread all-day, everyday.”

While some may be concerned or leery about his offensive schemes and how they might be translated inside the confines of Camp Randall, ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett settled that debate in an exclusive interview with Ludwig this past January.

“If you look at San Diego State, that's what San Diego State was about this year (having a run-first oriented offense). But more than that, it's about identifying the skills an abilities of the players in the program and design the plays to put them in a position to be successful. So I don't want to be locked in to, 'Hey, we're going to do this or that,' before I get a chance to fully evaluate everyone in the program.”

By reading into it, Ludwig seems to allude to the fact that he will stick to the traditional Wisconsin pro-style offense due to the surrounding personnel on the offensive side of the ball.

If you need any statistical proof of Ludwig's balanced offense, look no further. Spanning from 1998-2012 (14 seasons), his offenses ran the ball an average of 511.3 times per season—with a low of 387 and a high of 578. They amassed an average of 2,158.6 yards/season—with a low of 1,691 yards and a high of 2,869 yards. In comparison to Wisconsin's rushing statistics from a year ago, they ran the ball 635 times and gained 3,735 yards. While they are not identical in nature, the above statistics should prove to readers that Ludwig is not afraid to establish the run game.

Through the air they averaged 423 passes/season—with a low of 309 and high of 542. They amassed an average of 3,154.1 yards/season—with a low of 2,101 and a high of 4,876. Once again, in comparison to Wisconsin's passing statistics from a year ago, they attempted 291 attempts and threw for a total of 2,197 yards.

Obviously, the focal point of Ludwig's first season with the Badgers will be the intense quarterback battle. He shed light on a couple of things he is looking for in his interview with Bennett.

“There are two things physically that you're looking for. One is repetitive accuracy. You've got to throw completions and you've got to be 90-plus percent on those, but then athleticism, the ability to extend plays, is an absolute must. That's what we'll be looking for. Again, I don't have a great bead on the guys. I've just started watching the game film and tried to identify the three guys that played this year and identify their strengths and weaknesses, but it's going to be real competitive, I know that. It's going to be a competitive spring.”

Recruiting Emphasis: It is unreal the "six degrees of separation" that exists in college football and Ludwig is no different. He initially recruited current redshirt freshman Bart Houston when he was at SDSU so I'm sure Ludwig is extremely excited to get to work with him after missing out on Houston's recruitment. From the 2013 recruiting class, he secured the commitment of JUCO dual-threat quarterback Tanner McEvoy (3-star, 6-foot-5, 215 lbs; Yuma, AZ), who I think is the front-runner for the positional battle, even though he won't step foot on campus until summer conditioning starts in early June.

While he was at SDSU, he was responsible for the recruiting area of Northern California East (Sacramento, El Dorado). Furthermore, he was responsible for solely recruiting quarterbacks, which is similar in nature to former UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's role in recruiting.

As I mentioned with the new defensive coaches, it has become more apparent that UW will strive to expand their recruiting areas westward.

Impression: My main concern with Ludwig is not his offensive game plan or schemes. Rather, it is concentrated around the type of reception he gets if the Wisconsin offense does not live up to the fans' expectations. Keep in mind: former offensive coordinator Matt Canada was heavily criticized week-in and week-out for the wide inconsistency of the offense last year, especially given the amount of talent the team had on that side of the ball. They are obviously losing Montee Ball but White and Gordon—possibly even Vonte Jackson—should prove to be a viable successors to the NCAA all-time touchdowns leader.

While the running back position is practically secured, it will be very interesting to see how he handles the quarterback battle. As alluded to earlier, I do think Andersen and Ludwig will ultimately decide to go with McEvoy simply for the reason they would not go out and get a quarterback from the junior college ranks to put a headset on him. Nonetheless, Ludwig still has a plethora of gunslingers at his disposal from top-to-bottom with Stave, Phillips, O'Brien and Houston. For the sake of increased blood pressure among the Wisconsin faithful, let's hope the battle is not a circus show like it was last year.