1. The same thing, only different.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham insists Utah's offense will have more similarities than differences to a year ago.

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who directed successful schemes at Fresno State and Oregon, takes control of a Utah offense that ranked third in the nation last season in scoring, yardage and pass efficiency.

The departure of quarterback Alex Smith and top receivers Paris Warren and Steve Savoy has necessitated an alteration or two, however. The Utes have incorporated a few pro sets this spring in an effort to build a more balanced attack.

"I'm just trying to identify the skills and abilities of our players and implement an offense that highlights those skills," said Ludwig. "So it'll be an ever-evolving process."

2. More I formations.

Utah's commitment to adjusting the offense to personal strengths will likely give tailbacks Quinton Ganther, Darryl Poston and Mike Liti more opportunities to carry the ball.

"What you're going to see a little bit differently from last year is more I-back stuff," said Whittingham. "It's not a wholesale change but it's a way to get our tailbacks the football and take some of the pressure off of Brian Johnson."

I formations allow the offense to feature the tailback a little bit more. Redshirt freshman Ray Stowers and new recruits Sean Smith and Darrell Mack give Utah depth in the backfield and a foundation to build upon.

3. Increased tight end involvement.

Make no mistake about it, says Whittingham, Utah still operates a four wide receiver, spread offense.

For the first time in two years, however, the Utes recruited tight ends and wound up signing a pair of talented ones. High school standouts Chris Joppru of Minnesota and Lance Bordeleau of California will join the mix this fall.

They'll join veterans Blake Burdette, Willie Sao and Chad Jacobsen, who are participating in spring ball, in competing for playing time. Burdette is the only returnee to have caught a pass last season. He had three receptions for 20 yards.

Though Whittingham acknowledges the likelihood of more tight end involvement in the offense, it'll still come down to putting the ball in the hands of the best players on the field.

4. A gradual re-spreading.

Replacing Utah's first Heisman Trophy finalist will take a little time. Johnson, a heady 18-year-old, brings a lot of intangibles to the table. His leadership, intelligence and ability to both run and throw the ball has pleased coaches in spring ball.

Actual college-game experience may be his most glaring shortcoming. He saw limited action in 10 games as Smith's backup season — completing 14 of 21 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 92 yards and a score on 21 carries.

Johnson is eager to expand his role, but will most likely be eased into directing all facets of Utah's varied offense.

"As Brian Johnson improves and is able to handle more on his plate, then the spread package will expand," said Whittingham.

5. A different approach.

In his 10 years as Utah's defensive coordinator, Whittingham faced a variety of offenses. One scheme in particular caught his attention — that of Ludwig, at both Fresno State and Oregon.

"I've always respected how he's been able to attack opposing defenses," said Whittingham, who describes Utah's new offensive coordinator as a consummate professional with intelligence and a great track record.

In the past, Ludwig has directed a pro-style offense. Personnel and Utah's success in 2004 are being incorporated into the mix. The variables won't alter Ludwig's basic approach of running a balanced offense with multiple formations.

As much as 50 percent of Utah's playbook in 2005 could be option plays.