Kragthorpe: Without throwing, Utes' Wynn impresses Chow
Without having watched Jordan Wynn throw a football, Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow loves his quarterback.
Consider that an endorsement, not any kind of wry observation.
While installing offenses for North Carolina State, USC, the Tennessee Titans, UCLA and Utah in this decade, Chow purposely has avoided watching old videotapes of those teams and their personnel, preferring to give everyone a fresh start. That's true of his developing relationship with Wynn, whose recovery from shoulder surgery is preventing the quarterback from full-scale throwing this spring.
Wynn is making a very good impression. "What you see is he's sitting in a meeting and he's almost bored, because we can't go any faster," Chow said. "You say it one time, and he gets it. I don't know if you coach that; you just know that this guy's got it."
The way Chow's offense and Wynn's knowledge of it translate to Pac-12 Conference competition will help determine how the Utes fit into the new league. By the end of last season, Wynn was not the same quarterback who had directed an 8-0 start, and Utah's offense was a shell of its former self. Wynn struggled in losses to Texas Christian and Notre Dame, was benched in the third quarter before salvaging a win over BYU and then missed the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State following his surgery.
The Ute offense rose and fell with him. In the team's 10 wins, Utah averaged 41.7 points and 439.3 yards. In three losses, those numbers dipped to 4.3 points and 221.3 yards.
Coach Kyle Whittingham maintains that there's a new offensive coordinator in town only because Chow happened to be available. "I wasn't bound and determined to make a change," Whittingham said, "but anytime you have a chance to better yourself, you've got to do it."
Whittingham's offensive staff members understand that by now. During the past two seasons, Dave Schramm and Aaron Roderick each had a stint as Utah's play-caller. They're still employed by the Utes, and so is second-year quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, but Chow is in charge.
He's beyond having anything to prove in the profession, but Chow's offenses have not been productive lately. UCLA ranked 100th in total offense last season. That's a big comedown for a coordinator who was celebrated at BYU and USC for working with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and designing dynamic offenses.
So the move to Utah, where Chow played on the offensive line in the mid-1960s, is a chance to re-establish his balanced, pro-style system and make it work at college football's top level.
"If we're going to play in this league," Chow said, "we have to be able to run the ball."
And Wynn will have to throw it consistently. While he can relate to Johnson, who was playing his position in 2008, Wynn is bonding with the 64-year-old Chow. "I've definitely learned a lot from him," Wynn said. "We talk pretty much every day, whether it's about the offense or football in general or life. He comes with a lot of experience. â¦ I'm trying to absorb everything I can."
Chow welcomes that attitude. "It's fun," Chow said of starting over with the Utes. "The nice thing about these young guys is they're so willing. They want to do so well. It makes it easy."
That's true in the spring, anyway, before those Pac-12 defenses come to life on the field and Wynn actually plays football, instead of just talking about it.
email@example.com Spring football tour
Today • Utah
To come • Utah St., BYU
The vibe • The Pac-12 logos are being sewn into the Rice-Eccles Stadium field this week, and the reality of competing in the new league is hitting home.
Can't wait 'til • Sept. 10. The Utes will visit USC in their Pac-12 opener.
Unresolved issues • Who will become the primary running back, among a junior college transfer (John White I), a freshman (Harvey Langi) and a former rugby star (Thretton Palamo)? How will four new secondary starters fare against USC's Matt Barkley and BYU's Jake Heaps in the first three weeks of the season?