Utah Utes football: 5 things to look for in fall camp

Published: Monday, Aug. 1 2011 11:00 p.m. MDT

Norm Chow and Kyle Whittingham pose for a portrait in the Smith Athletics Center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 1, 2011.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There's plenty of excitement up on the hill as Utah enters its first season in the Pac-12. The original Bowl Championship Series busters are no longer outsiders. They're now part of an automatic qualifying conference — and a lucrative one at that.

The impending fame and fortune, however, won't provide solutions to everything.

There's still fall camp, where the Utes are looking for answers to several questions. Players report Wednesday night and take the field on Thursday morning.

Here's five situations to watch as Utah prepares for its inaugural season in Pac-12:

1. Will Jordan Wynn return to form?

Although Wynn has been cleared medically and is 100 percent healthy, the only quarterback in the program with major college experience will make a "gradual return" to his duties as the starter. The junior, who had surgery on his throwing arm in December, will be on a throw count early in camp. He'll be limited to 100 passes each day, and none in the second session of two-a-days.

It's all for precautionary reasons, explained Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, to avoid potential problems down the road.

"We don't want to give him too much of a load early on," he said.

Wynn missed the Las Vegas Bowl and was unable to make throws in spring ball following the Dec. 13 surgery. He has since been cleared to do so and spent the summer adding distance incrementally.

"Keeping Jordan healthy is definitely going to be a priority for us," Whittingham said.

The Utes are 11-4 with Wynn as the starter. His backups this season are true freshman Tyler Shreve and junior college transfer Jon Hays.

2. What about Norm Chow and the revamped offense?

The hiring of Chow brought alterations to the offense during spring ball. The Utes have added more of a downhill run element to their scheme and will put the quarterback under center more often.

A lot of other things, however, will carry over from the spread attack of recent years.

"It's not a complete wholesale departure," Whittingham said.

When pressed for an apt description, he called it a "revamping" and "not a complete overhaul."

It'll complement Wynn's skill sets and put him in a system similar to the one he ran in high school. More two-back sets and the greater use of tight ends and fullbacks are expected.

The changes accompany Chow's return to his alma mater. The veteran play-caller has an extensive background as an offensive coordinator, having done so for BYU, North Carolina State, USC, UCLA and the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

"You'd be hard pressed to find a guy with more experience and a better track record than what Coach Chow has," Whittingham said.

3. Who will be the new starters in the secondary?

Graduation losses, Brandon Burton's early departure to the NFL, and Brian Blechen's move to linebacker have left the Utes without any returning starters at cornerback or safety.

That doesn't mean, however, that the cupboard is bare — far from it, as a matter of fact.

"A lot of bodies, a lot of candidates," Whittingham said. "But it hasn't been sorted out yet."

Senior Conroy Black and junior Ryan Lacy solidified themselves as the base corners in spring ball, but Whittingham notes that there's still an active competition for the sub spots. Utah often employs schemes with three or four corners. Sophomore Wykie Freeman is in the mix, along with junior Reggie Topps and sophomore Mike Honeycutt.

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