Wisconsin Football: 3 Biggest Challenges for Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig
Oftentimes, what goes overlooked in coaching is the amount of turnover there is among assistants every year, and Wisconsin football has seen plenty of that despite only having two coaching changes over the past few decades.
Along with the arrival of new head coach Gary Andersen, the Badgers had to find replacements at both offensive and defensive coordinator. Having previously worked with Andersen at the University of Utah, Andersen hired former San Diego State offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to the same position with the Badgers.
He becomes the third different offensive coordinator at Wisconsin in as many years.
In 2012, the Aztecs were No. 20 in the FBS in rushing, No. 36 in points scored and No. 107 in passing, which goes to show that Ludwig emphasized running the football and had success doing so. San Diego State finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West Conference.
Ludwig hopes to carry over that success to a more prestigious football program at Wisconsin, but first he will have to overcome these three challenges.
Introducing New Philosophies
Believe it or not, Ludwig is plenty familiar with the way Wisconsin has gone about its business on offense.
While at San Diego State, Ludwig said he spent a few offseasons studying Wisconsin film and even spent some time up in Pittsburgh with former Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, looking for concepts to apply to his offense (via Brian Bennett of ESPN.com).
Therefore, it's safe to assume the power running game will remain the core of this Wisconsin offense, but Ludwig did note that he will institute a few new wrinkles. We've also heard Andersen note how he would like a more mobile quarterback, and based on how he has recruited since arriving in Madison—starting with Tanner McEvoy—that could be the case sooner rather than later.
Last season at San Diego State, quarterbacks Ryan Katz and Adam Dingwell combined to rush 112 times, so Ludwig has experience working with dual-threat quarterbacks. Whether or not the starting quarterback will be mobile for the Badgers in 2013 is yet to be determined.
As long as Ludwig maintains good communication with his players and plays to their strengths, the transition process should go smoothly.
Selecting the 'Right' Quarterback
Quarterback controversy is never a pleasant situation for a football program to endure, especially when it takes place during the season. Last season, Danny O'Brien began the season as the starting quarterback, and he's no longer even on the roster (h/t Jeff Barker of The Baltimore Sun).
Having a player who can step in and maintain a solid grasp on the job throughout the entire season is something that will make things a lot easier for the Badgers in 2013. Had it not been for Joel Stave's broken collarbone last October—and if he had begun the season as the starter—Wisconsin would have had far more offensive stability.
The Badgers have a chance to start anew in 2013 and make the correct selection at quarterback from the get-go. Andy Ludwig will have plenty to say about who earns the starting distinction, and it comes down to what exactly Wisconsin wants from the quarterback position under the new regime.
Redshirt freshman Bart Houston has the best pure arm, but he has already fallen back in the race. Stave can also wing it, but he offers other intangibles as well. Senior Curt Phillips is more mobile and currently neck-and-neck with Stave for the job.
Then there is junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy, who offers true dual-threat ability. Who winds up under center for the Badgers will not only help dictate how the offense is tailored, but it will also go a long way in determining how much success Wisconsin will have next season.
Because Wisconsin was never really sure how much trust it could put in its quarterback last season, the Badgers offense became even more one-dimensional than usual.
What didn't help was that the offensive line didn't take too well to new line coach Mike Markuson and largely struggled throughout the season—at least by Wisconsin's standards—even after his firing. Pass protection was noticeably poor, and the Badgers often had trouble generating an effective run game.
To make matters worse, the Badgers must now replace center Travis Frederick and tackle Ricky Wagner. That situation looks to be largely settled, but there's no telling how the line will perform until we actually see it in action.
Along with sorting out the offensive line and the quarterback situation, Ludwig would love nothing more than for another legitimate threat to join Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen in the passing game.
Regardless of how it all pans out, Ludwig will have to work with what he's got and try to do a better job of keeping opposing defenses off-balance, because the inability to do so last season was a big reason why Wisconsin dropped six games.