SALT LAKE CITY — The tattoo on Jordan Wynn's left bicep was designed as a tribute to his late grandmother.
That it stands out now shows how far the Utah quarterback has come since undergoing a second season-ending shoulder surgery in 10 months.
"We'd tease him (because) it used to wrap all the way back to the back," Utes wide receiver DeVonte Christopher said of Wynn's atrophied arms. "Now it's center-face; so he's good."
In the quarterback-driven Pac-12 Conference, the Utes will need Wynn to be good to compete again for the South Division title.
Not only is the 6-foot-2 junior healthy, he's bulked up to 208 pounds, has a cleaner throwing motion, is throwing downfield with more zip on the ball and has a couple of talented freshmen pushing him.
Wynn has competed in spring football practices without any restrictions — unlike a year ago when he was coming off surgery on his right (throwing) arm. In a second spring scrimmage, he was 7 of 12 for 149 yards and a touchdown, including completions of 43, 42 and 28 yards.
Next up is Saturday's annual Red-White spring game.
"I'm actually able to lift on both my arms," Wynn said after a recent practice. "This is the first time in a while."
Wynn actually has had three shoulder operations: on his left after the 2010 spring game, on his right in December 2010, which kept him out of the Las Vegas Bowl; and on his left again in October, ending his season.
"Body-wise I feel so much more balanced," Wynn said. "Going from left surgery to right surgery to left surgery, you lift on one side each time and become very uneven in terms of balance. I feel good, I'm balanced and I'm heavier. I can hang in the pocket and make a throw now."
He already had a solid record, going 13-6 as Utah's starter, with 4,390 career yards passing and 31 touchdowns. Having zip on the ball and the experience has bumped him to the top of Utah's depth chart. That's the case even though the Utes signed two talented freshmen in 6-6 Travis Wilson and 6-3 Chase Hansen, and return Jon Hays, who filled in admirably last season and rallied the Utes to a Sun Bowl victory.
"I'm very proud of him, where he's at and the way he's leading the team," head coach Kyle Whittingham said of Wynn. "The added weight is to make him a more durable player. He's had a history of injuries, but we're hoping that's behind him."
Wilson and Hansen are listed as Wynn's backups.
"Jordan is our starter," said Brian Johnson, Utah's 2008 Sugar Bowl quarterback, who took over as offensive coordinator after Norm Chow bolted for Hawaii. "It doesn't mean that people can't compete with him."
It's helped that both freshman graduated high school early and are able to participle in spring drills.
Hansen already was familiar with Utah, growing up in Highland and having led Lone Peak High School to state championships in both football and basketball. He has attended youth camps for years, allowing Utah's staff to build a relationship with him.
"He's a winner, he's a grinder," Johnson said of Hansen, also more of a runner than Wilson.
Wilson has the prototypical size, and he performed well last weekend, completing 6 of 8 passes for 56 yards and rushing for two touchdowns.
"Travis Wilson has been an absolute great person to have in camp," Johnson said. "He's made so many strides. He's a guy that is going to be a special player for us."
A year ago, the Utes may have been the thinnest in the league at the quarterback position. Now they have depth.
"I definitely feel like I'm pushing Jordan," Wilson said. "That's what I want to do — get him better and he's making me better."
Last year, one freshman quarterback showed what he could do in the Pac-12. Oregon State's Sean Mannion passed for 3,332 yards and 16 touchdowns — with four 300-yard games — but also threw 18 interceptions.
The Utes are hoping they don't have to go that route if Wynn remains healthy.
"Jordan looks sharper this time around coming off the injury than he did last year for some reason," said Christopher, who led Utah in receiving in 2011 with 42 receptions for 663 yards. "He' put on a lot of weight, looks like a whole different quarterback."
Last season, Utah got off to a rough start in its first season competing in the Pac-12. The Utes were 2-2 when Wynn got hurt, but rallied behind Hays to finish 8-5 They would have represented the South in the augural Pac-12 title game had they not stumbled in the regular-season finale against Colorado.
Winning the South Division is "always the goal," Wynn said. "There are a lot of good teams in the South, and a lot of good coaches came in. It's an exciting time. We've got to go out and compete and take it."
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