The Nevada Wolf Pack are getting closer to naming their next head coach to replace Brian Polian, and could make a decision by next Friday. The top two candidates that are emerging to roam the Reno sidelines are Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.
Baldwin has coached at the FCS level with the Eagles since 2008 and has been dominate at that level with an 83-31 record, five wins of 10 or more seasons, four Big Sky titles and six playoff berths including wining the 2010 national title.
Eastern Washington plays on a red field and called “The Inferno” which has given them a lot of publicity but that is not the only thing Baldwin is known for. He has coached a lot of good talent and the most known name is Vernon Adams who left EWU to play his final year of college football at Oregon.
The offense that Baldwin runs is in the same vein as what Nevada does with the pistol. If the Wolf Pack want to stay competitive with their known low budget among the Mountain West, so the need to be different will help attract certain players that will play for the system and the facilities may not matter that much.
The downside to Baldwin is that he has never coached at the FBS level in any capacity and the jump from the FCS to the FBS.
The other candidate is career offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, but he has a lot of experience coaching in the Mountain West and the West Coast. He has been the offensive coordinator with four current or former Mountain West teams with Boise State (QB coach 1995-96) and Fresno State (OC 1998-2001), Utah (OC 2005-08) and San Diego State (OC 2011-12). He also has been an offensive coordinator at Oregon, Wisconsin, Cal and most currently Vanderbilt.
There are pluses and minuses for Ludwig to be the next Nevada head coach. The experience on the West Coast is helpful for recruiting and he has coached within the league and at Power Five conferences with varying levels of success.
He was in charge of Utah’s offense in 2008 when they went undefeated and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. In 2012, Ludwig was in charge of the offense that helped San Diego State win a share of the Mountain West title and in 2014 he ran the offense that went to the Big Ten title game with Wisconsin.
An issue with Ludwig is that he has never been a head coach and that can be seen as a red flag as a career coordinator, and there is nothing wrong for leading an offense or defense as a coordinator. However, no coach dreams at topping out as a coordinator and they will never know until they get that job to see if they succeed or fail.
Ludwig’s offense is not overly complex but it is diverse in what is called and sometimes he can out think himself at times when a straight forward running play could work.
Here is what Ludwig said to WSNR in Nashville when he became the offensive coordinator with Vanderbilt.
“In the running game, we’re going to install about six concepts, but try to great a lot of different presentations through formations and personnel usage there. In the passing game, same thing, we’ll be concept-driven. There’s probably about eight to ten core concepts we want to teach and master through the course of spring and grow from there.”
Ludwig added that he wanted to have about 14-16 plays in the early stages as the Vanderbilt offensive coordinator.
Possibly expect Ludwig to start fairly basic in his offense with Nevada and build upon that if he gets the Reno job. He does have a solid running back in James Butler to build the offense; that is if Butler does not decide to go pro.
in 2014 the Vanderbilt offense was 125th in the nation and averaged only 288 yards and Ludwig’s two years on the job have only moved up the offense to 117th and 110th in 2016. The yardage has improved to over 350 per game in those years, but it is still one of the worst in the country. However, the flip side the SEC has some great defenses and moving up to even the top half of FBS is tough while playing in the SEC.