Utah, Wynn know where focus will be in opener

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 30, 2012
Quarterback Jordan Wynn showed up for Utah's opening news conference sporting thick black frames, prompting a question about whether the NBA-style, geek-chic eyeglasses were real. Wynn assured everyone they were, for a bad right eye that requires contact lenses in games. Glasses or not, Wynn is smart enough to know the focus once again will be on his surgically repaired shoulders Thursday when the Utes open their season at home against Big Sky doormat Northern Colorado. ''I'm sure everyone will be critiquing,'' said Wynn, who saw his last two seasons end because of shoulder injuries - in 2010 to his right throwing arm and last October to his left. He said he feels the best-ever coming off injury, and perhaps better than even before the injuries occurred. ''As a freshman, I was 160 pounds,'' said Wynn, now 209 after serious efforts to add bulk this offseason. ''I wasn't really there mentally where I am now.'' The Utes also have come a long way from their days in the Mountain West Conference, starting their second season in Pac-12 play feeling more comfortable that they belong. Like last year, they get a chance to ease into things against Northern Colorado, which went 0-11 its first season under coach Earnest Collins and has managed only nine wins the past six years. Utah's lackluster 27-10 victory over Big Sky opponent Montana State a year ago was an indication not all was right, and the Utes went on to sputter offensively in losing their first four conference games. They rallied to finish 8-5 without Wynn. Different year, different opponent, but last year's opener still resonates with Utah. ''You want to start fast, set the tone for the whole season,'' Wynn said. It helps that Wynn has been pushed by freshman Travis Wilson, who is expected to see at least a handful of plays Thursday in the wildcat because of his running ability. ''I'm curious to see those long legs move,'' running back John White said of the 6-foot-6 Wilson. White already showed what short legs can do, breaking a 29-year-old school record with 1,519 yards rushing in his first season as a Ute. That has Collins concerned more than anything. ''We've got to make sure we stop the run first and make them throw the football. That was a battle in itself last year,'' said Collins, whose defense allowed 170.7 yards rushing per game in 2011. ''We've got to stop their main source and John White is their main source.'' One of the biggest surprises on Utah's latest depth chart is the player backing up White, with freshman Jarrell Oliver overtaking junior-college transfer Kelvin York. The other surprise is that sophomore Kenneth Scott is listed as a co-starter at wide receiver with senior DeVonte Christopher, Utah's leading receiver the past two years. The Bears counter with their own talented core of receivers and junior quarterback Seth Lobato, who threw for 2,448 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. ''We know they like to pass the ball a lot, and a team that is good at passing can be scary,'' said Utah defensive tackle Dave Kruger. ''We're going to stay humble and take this team serious.'' While Northern Colorado once was a Division II powerhouse, the Bears haven't fared well since moving up to FCS. Their last winning season was in 2003. Their last win came on Nov. 13, 2010. The Utes also are 34-0 all-time against Big Sky schools and will be looking to make it 35-0, particularly Wynn, who will have former Utes quarterback Brian Johnson calling the plays as the team's new offensive coordinator. ''It will just be nice to be healthy and be able to play,'' Wynn said. ''Missing that many games and going through rehab, then spring and summer workouts, it's a lot of work and that's all going to culminate on Thursday night.''
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