- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Gary Andersen's choice for his offensive coordinator at Wisconsin certainly doesn't lack for experience. Andy Ludwig has spent 18 years as an offensive play-caller, including stops at Fresno State, Utah, California and, most recently, San Diego State. ESPN.com caught up with Ludwig this week to get his thoughts on the new Badgers offense:
Tell us about your relationship with Gary Andersen, and how big of a factor was that in you taking this job?
Andy Ludwig: We worked together for four years at the University of Utah. He was the defensive coordinator, and I was the offensive coordinator, and we had a very good working relationship. I've got a lot of respect for Gary as a football coach and as a person, and I really respect his competitiveness. I thought the opportunity to work for Gary at a school like the University of Wisconsin, with the tradition of the Wisconsin Badgers, was something I had to jump on.
He, of course, has a defensive background. How involved with the offense do you think he'll be?
AL: I'm sure that he'll want to know what the plans are and what we're doing. He's got some ideas and some things he wants to incorporate, but we're on the same page. We've talked about those things. I hope he's involved. I hope he comes and sits in our meetings.
What's your offensive philosophy?
AL: The first thing I'd say is it's a players' game. What we do on Saturdays is going to be designed to highlight the skills and strengths of 24 or 25 guys, or the 18 guys that will be playing that day. So our initial starting point is, we want to establish the running game and be a great play-action team, which is Wisconsin football. And if you look at San Diego State, that's what San Diego State was about this year. 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.
How much were you familiar with what Wisconsin has done on offense in recent years, especially with regards to the running game?
AL: Very much. A couple of offseasons we spent studying Wisconsin film, looking for new ideas and concepts. Actually, kind of coincidentally, we spent two days last spring out at the University of Pittsburgh with coach [Paul] Chryst and the offensive staff, because we did have so much respect for what they were doing and we wanted to learn more about it and incorporate as many ideas as we could back at San Diego State.
Did you use any of those last season?
AL: Absolutely, yeah. You just take a couple of their concepts and implement them with what we were doing, and we enjoyed some success with those ideas that we picked up there.
It must make you smile to think about designing an offense with those 300-plus-pound offensive linemen leading the way, huh?
AL: Oh yeah. That's Wisconsin football right there, those big guys. You know, I had a chance to watch them practice for a couple days in Los Angeles as they were getting ready for the bowl game, and that's the first thing that jumps out at you is that position group. I'm just anxious to meet those guys and put 'em to work.
Barry Alvarez has said he wanted coaches who would keep the style of offense that helped him build this program. It sounds like you are on the same page philosophically with that. Would you agree?
AL: I do agree with that, yes. Very much so. The initial offense, the core of the offense isn't going to look much different than it has for the past "X" amount of years. There will be wrinkles and maybe a couple new concepts, but it's going to be player-driven. You've got a couple new guys coming in who can maybe contribute in different ways but it's going to be Wisconsin football.
There should be a good quarterback battle this offseason. What, in general terms, are you looking for in a quarterback?
AL: There are two things physically that you're looking for. One is competitive 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.
You've coached at a lot of different places. What have you learned about trying to make that transition to a new system go smoothly for the players?
AL: The first thing is, you've got to have great communication. And through that communication, you earn trust. That's going to be a big part of the initial part of the transition, is just getting to know the players by name and position, and having great communication with them. And then being very meticulous in terms of the installation process and making sure they understand the whys behind the how. Not just the "this is how we're going to do it," but just as important is the why we're going to it.
What are your impressions of the Big Ten as an outsider, and are there things about the league, such as the defenses and the cold weather, that will affect your approach?
AL: I don't have great familiarity with the league. I've got great respect for the league. But your ability to run the football in November is going to be a big part of our success. So there are some things I'm going to learn and I'm going to ask questions about to make sure nothing catches me off guard. But it's a great league and I can't wait to be a part of it.
What can you tell us about coach Andersen and what we can expect from him?
AL: I've got great respect for Gary, because he's a man of high character. He cares about the players. The players are absolutely first in his program. And he's an extremely competitive man. So those, to me, are some of the characteristics that stand out about coach Andersen.
Finally, this is a new area for you. But can you use some of your previous ties to maybe open up some new recruiting areas for Wisconsin?
AL: I think so, because recruiting is all about relationships. So I've got some West Coast relationships, and I'm hoping to be able to utilize those to get us a couple players every year. But I'm also looking forward to developing new relationships in this part of the country, or wherever coach Andersen sends me on the recruiting trail.
12mDavid M. Hale