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Can Ludwig Prove Whittingham Right? Can Whittingham Win Championships?

University of Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig during fall camp. (Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Fall camp for Utah football is just over a week old and there has already been at least one piece of huge news that could shape the season when linebacker Manny Bowen left the program for a mysterious business opportunity.

There are plenty of other storylines to watch out for that fans, media and even players are thinking about.

KSL’s Unrivaled hosts, Scott Mitchell and Alex Kirry, discussed the storylines they are looking forward to from the Utes.

Are The Utes As Good As Advertised?

Preseason picks and accolades have been high on Utah.

The Utes were named the preseason Pac-12 champion and led the Pac-12 in preseason All-League players.

Being predicted to win the conference for the first time ever is a big deal for the team and comes with a lot of pressure on a team that usually thrives on being the underdog.

“They are losing leadership like Cody Barton and Chase Hansen. They were great leaders and now Manny Bowen is not there and that could change the chemistry of this team,” Mitchell said. “This is an experienced-laden team so they will be able to push through those days where they are not going to be playing well.”

The team has so much talent but to have a zero on the loss column all year takes more than talent, according to Mitchell. The Utes must have a coaching staff, captains, team leaders and a “little bit of luck to run the table.”

Will Andy Ludwig Prove Kyle Whittingham Right?

Ludwig is back in Salt Lake City, 11 seasons after he held the same position under Kyle Whittingham when he oversaw the offense that led Utah over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Since then, he was an offensive coordinator for Cal, San Diego State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt.

He has never been a head coach at any level and has never seriously been considered one at the FBS level despite his success as a coordinator.

Mitchell explained there will be significant pressure on Ludwig. He is joining a team whose goals are higher than any staff he has been a part of.

“There is actually a lot of pressure on Andy Ludwig. This is a team that is not building or trying to figure things out. This team is ready to win now, not just win, but win big,” Mitchell said on KSL’s Unrivaled. There are people that have talked about Utah being in the College Football Playoff, winning the Pac-12 outright, Rose Bowl and all of that stuff.”

Ludwig needs to take what he learned in the Pac-12, Big-10 and SEC and focus those traits to get Utah where they want to be.

“That is a lot of pressure. When you go to these other places there are things you learn. You learn situations, you learn how to do things a little bit differently, so having that experience and also having that success here [in Utah],” said Mitchell.

“Kyle Whittingham is a tough coach and someone to coach with and is very demanding,” Mitchell added. “Andy Ludwig knows what he is getting into, Kyle knows what he is getting with Andy. So, if there is a person, Andy Ludwig might be the very best choice for Kyle Whittingham in the situation they are in right now.”


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Some Utah fans were not thrilled when Ludwig was calling plays despite that the Utes were having amazing success over a decade ago.

“He is proven, they went undefeated with Brian Johnson doing an amazing job in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama and that was Andy Ludwig. The concern is that it’s one thing is to have a system that is good and have familiarity,” Mitchell said. “It is hard to put a new system and go, ‘OK, I got it.’ Andy Ludwig is not trying to change things a lot… [but] my concern is that can these players grasp a new offense quick enough.”

With the two knowing each other and a solid track record there should be some comfort for Ludwig manning the Utes offense.

What If Whittingham Doesn’t Win?

Kyle Whittingham has been a stellar head coach for Utah with the 2008 season being his pinnacle by winning the Sugar Bowl over Alabama and finishing No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll.

The 2018 team that went to the Pac-12 title game had an inkling during the preseason that the season could be special, but there is no doubt the 2019 season has the highest expectations for Whittingham and the Utes.

What happens if Whittingham doesn’t live up to the hype with this team?

“If Whitt doesn’t win, is there a conversation after that with the expectations as high as they are – I am not going to throw the hot seat conversation out there – what I am after is if he can win championships,” Kirry wondered. “Everyone knows how talented you are this year, so if you don’t get to that next level, do people then wonder if he is an elite coach?”

Whittingham has won just a single conference title outright in 2008 while in the Mountain West and the outright Pac-12 South title last year, but those are the only two in 14 years as the Utes head coach.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.