Report: Utah OC Andy Ludwig emerges as top candidate for Notre Dame position

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune
Sep 3, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Utah Utes offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig prior to the game against the Florida Gators at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — During a 36-year coaching career that has included 14 different stops, including two wildly successful runs at the University of Utah, Andy Ludwig has never stayed longer than four seasons at any college program.

Looks like Notre Dame and coach Marcus Freeman would like to help the 58-year-old offensive coordinator continue that pattern after recently concluding Year 4 of his second stint with the 10th-ranked Utes.

More:Tracking Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman's offensive philosophy ... in his own words

Ludwig, according to an ESPN report, had emerged Friday evening as “the leading candidate” to fill the void left by Tommy Rees’ departure for Alabama. According to the report by Heather Dinich, Ludwig was on his way to Notre Dame’s campus and it was a “strong possibility” that a job offer would be forthcoming.

Ludwig, Freeman and Irish tight ends coach Gerad Parker attended Friday night's hockey game at Compton Ice Arena between Notre Dame and Ohio State. The trio was shown during the Peacock TV broadcast.

Ludwig, who has coordinated offenses in the SEC (Vanderbilt), Big Ten (Wisconsin) and Pac-12 (Utah, Cal and Oergon), earned $1.25 million last season, according to USA Today’s coaching salary database.

Ludwig’s prior contract with Utah, a three-year deal, $2.5 million deal signed in 2019, reportedly included a $450,000 buyout provision.  

When Utes quarterback Cam Rising recently announced he would forego the NFL Draft to return in 2023, the notion of any program prying the Ogden-born Ludwig away from his home state seemed less likely.

With the recent addition of Wake Forest graduate transfer Sam Hartman, Notre Dame can offer Ludwig the chance to work with the active FBS leader in career passing yards (12,967) and touchdowns (110).

With Rising at the controls, Utah finished with national ranks of 14th and 11th in scoring offense the past two seasons, both of which ended with Rose Bowl losses. According to Pro Football Focus, Utah's offense was 20th in overall efficiency last season (51st passing, No. 3 rushing) and 14th overall in 2021 (22nd passing, 14th rushing).

Only Texas and Michigan ranked higher in run efficiency than Utah last season.

Notre Dame offensive coordinator candidate Andy Ludwig, second from left (top row), takes in a Notre Dame hockey game Friday, Feb. 10 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend. Seated next to him is Irish tight ends coach Gerad Parker (left) and ND head football coach Marcus Freeman (right). Ludwig is currently the OC at Utah.

Last season the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Rising threw for 3,304 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 465 yards and six touchdowns. Rising transferred from Texas in early 2019 and had to sit out that season when is petition for immediate eligibility was denied.

Ludwig’s balanced Utah offense pinned a combined 90 points on USC last season in a two-game sweep of the Trojans. The Utes also put a 42-7 whipping on Stanford in November.

Utah's 2021 season ended with a 48-45 loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, but the Utes drilled both Stanford (52-7) and USC (42-26) that year as well.

The Irish, who play both West Coast schools annually, went 0-2 against USC and Stanford last season, marking the first time that had happened since 2016. The only other years it happened in the past quarter century were 2011, 2009 and 1997.

A home rematch with Ohio State looms in September after Notre Dame lost 21-10 at Ohio Stadium in the 2022 season opener. Ludwig's Rose Bowl experience against the Buckeyes was a little different.

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Utah built a 35-21 halftime lead but couldn't keep pace with CJ Stroud as he passed for 573 yards. Utah had 463 yards of offense (226 on the ground, 237 passing) but was still outgained by 220 yards as the teams rewrote the Rose Bowl record books.

"It was awesome," Ludwig told reporters in late December. "It was like watching a tennis match up there in the press box in that (42-point) second quarter. Things were moving really fast. To see the players just take the game over, playing above the X’s and O’s, it was very rewarding, honestly. … It was a heck of a game. That was one for the ages."

Ludwig was Vanderbilt's offensive coordinator in 2018 when the Commodores rallied from a 16-point deficit before falling 22-17 at Notre Dame Stadium. Kyle Shurmur passed for 326 yards against a Clark Lea defense that finished the year 13th in fewest points allowed (18.2).

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2018, file photo, then-Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig watches during an NCAA college football practice in Nashville, Tenn. Ludwig is back as offensive coordinator at Utah with an evolving playbook. Utah's players are embracing Ludwig's offense with enthusiasm. It is a bit slower and features more huddles between plays than what they've run in the past. Still, they are seeing and absorbing aspects of the game in a whole new way.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

A week later on Sept. 22 in Winston-Salem, N.C., Notre Dame rolled to a 56-27 win over a Wake Forest team with a freshman starting quarterback named Sam Hartman.

While Vanderbilt went 21-29 during Ludwig's four seasons in Nashville, the Commodores did make two bowl appearances and in 2018 fielded their fourth-highest scoring offense (28.5 points per game) since World War II.

Utah has gone 34-13 over the past four seasons, including a pandemic-shortened 2020 schedule. From 2005-08, during Ludwig's first term in Salt Lake City, the Utes went 37-14 and capped that off in 2008 with a 13-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking behind quarterback Brian Johnson.

A successful offensive coordinator in his own right who has tutored Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) and Kyle Trask (Florida), Johnson is finishing his second season as quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

With Ludwig as his OC, Johnson set Utah’s program record for wins (26) at quarterback and later graced the cover of EA Sports' 2010 NCAA Football video game. When his name surfaced recently in speculative reports that connected him to the Irish opening, Johnson reportedly said, "I'm not going to Notre Dame."

He didn't make any predictions about Ludwig.

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.