SALT LAKE CITY — It began with a text message on New Year’s Day. That’s when Utah coach Kyle Whittingham reached out to Andy Ludwig about the vacant offensive coordinator position with the Utes.
Ludwig, at the time, was in Tampa, Florida, watching the Outback Bowl. He explained the situation to Whittingham, who then asked Ludwig to call him when he could. The Ludwig family then went on vacation, and the Vanderbilt offensive coordinator then arranged to speak with Whittingham on Sunday, Jan. 6.
That was the first day the coaches “really dove into it.”
On Friday, the announcement was made. Ludwig was back as Utah’s offensive coordinator, a position he held from 2005-08. He caught a flight to Salt Lake City and was in his now-empty office at the Eccles Football Center by afternoon.
Ludwig said the decision to leave Nashville and the Commodores wasn’t easy because moving is difficult, and he’s done a lot of it.
“It’s hard on everybody, especially the family,” Ludwig said. “But there’s a lot of things with this program that I have an affinity towards — the geographical region, the state. There’s some family things that come into play and then my respect for Coach Whitt and the program that he has built.”
The latter, Ludwig explained, was something he wanted to be a part of.
“Things progressed fast,” he said. “They progress fast in this business. Things move really quick.”
As such, Ludwig made it to Utah (where he graduated from Bonneville High and Snow College) in time to help with recruiting this weekend. He had a media guide by his side and was eager to learn more about the players on the team. Wide receiver Britain Covey was the first player to stop by for a visit. Ludwig planned to meet the other guys soon.
Ludwig described his first day on the "job as drinking water through a fire hose.” He hoped to watch some film on the Utes Saturday.
COACHING PHILOSOPHY: Ludwig has a definite focus.
“Ball security, physicality, and a real premium and commitment to running the football — which leads to a lot of good things,” he said. ‘We want to throw the ball, we’re going to throw the ball, but I think everything starts with our physicality, ball security and the tailback position.”
Ludwig said the Utes have some good pieces in place to begin with that philosophy. A commitment to the run game, he added, creates one-on-ones on the outside and that is what they’re looking for.
FOOTBALL FACILITY: Although Ludwig received a tour of Utah’s Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center while doing some spring recruiting in 2013 or 2014, he noted it was a lot different than the offices he worked in a decade ago.
Ludwig, in fact, said the new facility was beautiful.
“It’s unbelievable,” he remarked. “It just shows the commitment the university has made to the student-athletes here and the success of the athletic programs.”
LEAVING VANDERBILT: Leaving Vandy after four seasons wasn’t easy for Ludwig.
“It was hard because you invest and work extremely hard at that university for success,” he said. “So there was a lot of hard work and sweat equity put into, and some good players coming back.”
However, for reasons already specified, Ludwig explained that the move back to Utah was one to make.
TWO QUARTERBACKS: Utah used two quarterbacks last season. Junior Tyler Huntley started the first eight games before breaking his collarbone in a loss at Arizona State. Redshirt freshman Jason Shelley took over the starting role for the final five games.
Could Ludwig have overseen a quarterback controversy? Not yet, anyhow. He hadn’t turned on the TV in his office, or had a computer to watch to watch any film on his first day on the job.
“Competition brings out the best in everyone,” Ludwig said. “So I’m anxious to let the competition begin.”
NO CHANGES PLANNED: Looks like the balance of Utah’s offensive staff — Jim Harding (assistant head coach/offensive line), Guy Holliday (wide receivers), Kiel McDonald (running backs) and Freddie Whittingham (tight ends) — will remain intact with Ludwig replacing Troy Taylor as coordinator being the only planned move. “This is the open spot. … I’m the new coach on the staff,” Ludwig said. “There’s nobody else, no changes on the horizon — absolutely not.”8 comments on this story
BOTTOM LINE: Ludwig is where he wants to be after leaving for stints as an offensive coordinator at California, San Diego State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt.
“There’s nothing easy about leaving one place where you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into and personal relationships and things like that,” Ludwig said. “But my family and I felt like this is the place we want to be, and we want to work for Coach Whitt as long as he wants me to work for him. And as long as he’s working, I want to be here.”