Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn is feeling good. The junior, who had shoulder surgery in December, expects to be 100 percent when the Utes open the season Sept. 1 against Montana State. He's been throwing the ball for several weeks now and is doing so free of pain.
"I've just got to continue to progress," said Wynn, who is in the midst of voluntary summer conditioning workouts with his teammates.
Utah's projected starter is being brought along incrementally. His throwing range has gradually increased since being cleared to make tosses shortly after spring ball concluded.
"We anticipate a full recovery. Things have gone well in his rehabilitation," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "He's right on schedule and barring any setbacks he should be full-go for the season opener."
The hardest thing, according to Wynn, is the mental part of it. Physically, he's all healed up and is ready to let it rip.
"Luckily I have all summer to do that and get ready. I have no doubt that I'll be ready," Wynn said. "The main thing for me this year is to stay healthy."
Whittingham agrees. The Utes, he acknowledged, are a bit thin in terms of experience at quarterback. With Griff Robles being moved to linebacker, Wynn is the only signal caller in the program with any major college experience. The backups are freshman Tyler Shreve and junior college transfer Jon Hays.
"But we've got a proven starter," Whittingham said. "We've got to keep him healthy. That's a priority for us, obviously."
In 16 career games with the Utes, Wynn has completed 290-of-478 passes for 3,663 yards and 25 touchdowns. His last seven appearances, however, came after injuring his throwing shoulder in a 68-27 victory at Iowa State last October. It eventually required surgery and kept him out of the Las Vegas Bowl.
Prior to Utah's loss to Boise State, though, Wynn continued to play and quarterbacked the Utes to victories over Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, San Diego State and BYU. High points included a 321-yard passing performance against CSU and a 362-yard showing against SDSU.
"I would say I wasn't really in a whole lot of pain," Wynn said. "It felt fine."
The most difficult thing, he explained, was practicing throughout the week.
"He was hurting. There's no doubt about it. But he's a tough kid," Whittingham said. "He's competitive and he played through it."
Wynn, however, wasn't as sharp as he had been earlier in the season — throwing eight interceptions over the seven-game stretch and failing to pass for 200 yards in four of the contests, including losses to TCU and Notre Dame.
Playing with an injury, noted Utah quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, can be frustrating. Johnson speaks from experience, having done so at times in his playing career.
"Obviously when you have an injury to your throwing shoulder it will affect your play a little bit," he said. "I know Jordan has worked extremely hard to put himself in a position to be healthy for the season. Our training staff has done a great job rehabbing it and getting him where he needs to be."
Johnson has discussed the situation with Wynn a couple of times. He told him the key is to not get discouraged and stick with the plan.
"I think he has a chance to be a very special player for us. He has all the tools and the skills to be successful at this level," Johnson said. "We're finding a way to put him in position to be our guy, make plays for us and be the guy that we can lean on this season."
For starters, Utah brought in famed offensive coordinator Norm Chow and altered the scheme.
"(Jordan) was under center much more often in high school than he was here in his first couple of years," Whittingham said. "He's expressed to me that's where he feels most comfortable. So I think this will be a good change for him."
Operating a spread offense at peak efficiency, he continued, requires a viable running threat at the quarterback position.
"Jordan has many strengths," Whittingham said. "But running the football is not a strong suit for him."
Wynn has 41 career rushes at Utah, resulting in a net gain of just one yard.
"I love the system that's in. It was no secret that I'm not a dual-threat quarterback," he said. "So it'll be nice to get back to taking three- and five-step drops and play action."
The opportunity to work with Chow is also something the southern California native appreciates. He knows the coach's background and they clicked immediately.
"It's definitely kind of surreal," said Wynn, who believes "everything has kind of fallen into place" for him — getting healthy, running a comfortable offense, working with Chow and playing in the Pac-12.
The feeling is mutual.
"We believe in Jordan 100 percent and coach Chow is very anxious to get him on the field and get him going," Whittingham said while noting that Chow is very impressed with Wynn's aptitude and his ability to assimilate the offense. "His football IQ has been talked about before. It's very high. He's got the right make-up to be a successful quarterback."
Johnson also praises Wynn's intelligence and understanding of the game. As such, Johnson isn't too worried that Wynn wasn't able to throw during spring ball. He did, however, take reps on running plays and was able to absorb the entire offense.
"I think it'll be a seamless transition once he's able to get in there and throw," Johnson said.
When fall camp opens in August, Wynn's understudies — Shreve and Hays — will also get a chance to show what they can do. The graduation of Terrance Cain has left a sizable vacancy on the depth chart.
"That's the nature of the beast in college football. There's a lot of turnover and guys have to step up when their number is called," Johnson said. "Both of those guys have to be ready to play this fall. Everybody knows what is expected and they have to have a great summer in the weight room."
Whittingham said it is doubtful that any other quarterbacks will be added to the mix at this point. Wynn's return, coupled with Shreve's development and Hays' junior college experience, prompted Robles' position change — leaving the Utes with three scholarship quarterbacks for 2011.
"Tyler made good progress this spring. He certainly got a lot of opportunity, took a lot of snaps," Whittingham said. "The difference in Tyler between practice No. 1 and No. 15 was a marked improvement that he made over the course of spring ball."
Shreve sat out a year to resolve some off-the-field issues and had to shake off some rust in the beginning. The coaching staff, though, felt like Shreve progressed very well.
Hays, meanwhile, is more of an unknown. The late signee from Butte (Calif.) College, which produced former Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff, will join the team for fall camp.
"We think he's going to help us," Whittingham said. "We think that he brings a lot to the table for us and certainly fulfills a need."
Gearing up for the Utes' inaugural season in the Pac-12 is well under way.
"Definitely the bar has been raised," Johnson said. "I think everybody in this building understands that and I think everybody understands what needs to take place in order for us to be successful in the Pac-12."
Confidence is a big part of the equation and Wynn is confident Utah will be able to compete right away. As was the case in the Mountain West, the Utes' goal is to win the conference.
"As a team, we have to believe we can do it," Wynn said. "There's no doubt in my mind we have the personnel and the coaches. We've just got to take it upon ourselves to go out and do it."
JORDAN WYNN (6-1, 195, Junior): Returning starter has played in 16 games for the Utes, completing 290-of-478 passes for 3,663 yards — 25 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
TYLER SHREVE (6-4, 206, Freshman): Baseball pitcher, once a 10th-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, showed his strong arm in spring football and capitalized on opportunities.
JON HAYES (6-2, 205, Junior): Junior college transfer signed in late April. Threw for 1,746 over nine games last season, tossing 10 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 2010.
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