There is a reason most freshmen quarterbacks redshirt. The position is so tough to learn, the speed of the game moves too fast, the defenders are so much bigger and stronger, it takes time to figure everything out.
For the few who do get to play, inconsistency is part of the learning curve. Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn knows all about that, after being called off the bench to play against Wyoming late last year.
The Utes won, but playing was a blur for Wynn. He was not exactly comfortable, even as he started the final four games of the regular season. Losses to TCU and BYU were two big doses of reality.
Something started to click in the Poinsettia Bowl against California. The game slowed down, and he felt more confident. Wynn won MVP honors, going 26-of-36 for a career-high 338 yards and three touchdowns.
As Utah prepares to open the season tonight against Pittsburgh, Wynn is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback. This is his team. That means he is essentially the face of the program, given the bright spotlight that has shined on every Utah quarterback in the recent past.
“It’s a great quarterback tradition here, and I’m just trying to continue it,” Wynn said.
His coaches believe he has the potential to be the best one yet. No pressure. New quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, who led Utah to its undefeated season in 2008, sees a mature leader with an immense amount of talent and work ethic similar to his and former No. 1 NFL draft pick Alex Smith.
“He should probably be the best guy to play here when he’s finished playing,” Johnson said. “He understands the situation he’s in, and he understands the magnitude of keeping this program playing at a high level. I look for him to have a great career here.”
Wynn ended last season completing 58 percent of his passes, while throwing for 1,329 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He has done plenty already to improve himself. Wynn put on 43 pounds to get himself in the 195 pound range. When he came into school as a freshman last season, he weighed about 150 pounds and admitted to being fatigued during fall camp.
To put on the weight, he ate three large meals and three snacks in between them. Wynn even woke himself up in the middle of the night to eat a sandwich and drink a protein shake. “I got sick of eating,” he said.
With the weight on, he still eats three large meals a day, but his body is much leaner and he is in better shape. He feels good with the added weight and does not feel sluggish.
Spring practice gave him a good opportunity to pick up where he left off in the bowl game. He was given the ability to call audibles, and the entire playbook is open to him now. Utah is no longer limited in what it can do. What is noteworthy is how quickly Wynn has picked up a very complex spread offense.
“I would say your typical quarterback, it takes about a year in our system to assimilate everything, to get the whole scheme and digest it,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Jordan did so quicker than most. There’s nothing we feel we have to hold back scheme-wise … Jordan will have some packaged plays where he will make decisions at the line of scrimmage based on the look the defense is giving him. We feel he’s ready for that. The game will be the proof in the pudding.”
Wynn has also worked on cutting down on his mental errors and overall mistakes, and realizes being a game manager is not necessarily a bad thing.
Now, this team is his, from Week 1 on.
“I’m ready for this,” he said.