While the Utah Utes were scrimmaging Saturday morning, the skies kept switching between sunny and cloudy, and then something really unusual occurred.
Footballs were in the air, actually spiraling and being caught for big gains.
Jordan Wynn was launching long passes, unlike anything seen at Rice-Eccles Stadium in a long, long time.
Afterward, Utah’s quarterback was saying things like, “With the guys that we have, we’ve got to take shots downfield,” and “That’s something that’s definitely going to be in our offense,” and “We’re going to let ’er rip.”
Apparently, this stuff might happen even before freshman QB Travis Wilson is the one doing it.
If there’s danger in overreacting to any snapshot of spring football practice, there’s also value in judging Wynn’s progress. For those who wondered if Wynn ever would be the same quarterback again, after successive winters of rehabilitation from surgery on each shoulder, his body of work this month is encouraging.
“He seems like his old self,” said receiver Luke Matthews.
Sure looked that way Saturday, when Wynn was delivering passes of 42 and 28 yards to DeVonte Christopher and 43 yards to Reggie Dunn (plus a 14-yard touchdown to Matthews). And those were not short tosses the receivers were turning into big plays; they were genuine, downfield passes. Wynn, who finished 7 of 12 for 149 yards, is “completely healthy for the first time in a long time,” said offensive coordinator Brian Johnson.
If he’s truly the Jordan Wynn of old, you’d have to go way, way back to make any such comparison. The last time anyone witnessed him deliver the ball this deep and with this much accuracy was in Utah’s loss at Texas Christian in his freshman season of 2009, when the Utes were losing badly but he kept firing.
Since then, the hits have just kept coming: the thumb injury in the 2010 opener against Pittsburgh, the right (throwing) shoulder injury the next month at Iowa State and the left shoulder injury against Washington that ended his 2011 season by halftime of the fourth game.
“It’s been a tough road,” Wynn said, “but I’ve come out of it.”
Much more potentially lies ahead for him with the Utes. Wynn is positioned to become the first quarterback ever to start four straight Utah-BYU games for either team — and he’s only a junior in eligibility, thanks to his shortened 2011 season. Of course, Wynn’s future may hinge on Wilson’s development. This kid is intriguing, with a 6-foot-6 body, a big arm and good training.
Wynn welcomes the competition, which means “I can’t have a bad day [in practice], and that’s something that’s going to help all of us.”
The reality is that if Wynn has a bad game, fans immediately will want Wilson to become the latest version of Wynn, who replaced starter Terrance Cain in October 2009. Regardless, Utah’s quarterback position will be upgraded this season.
If the Utes could win four Pac-12 games with Jon Hays as their QB — with full credit to Hays for managing to do what he did in a fill-in role — imagine the possibilities with Wynn or Wilson, who has completed 15 of 19 passes for 162 yards in two scrimmages.
Johnson could end up looking very good in his first season as a coordinator, partly because Utah’s No. 109 ranking in total offense left him so much room for improvement. “I think we’re explosive enough and talented enough to be really, really good,” Johnson said.
Saturday, the evidence was right there in the air.