This is Jordan Wynn's time to shine

Jordan Wynn has won 11 games as Utah's starting quarterback - putting him 15 wins behind Brian Johnson, the all-time leader in wins.

If he averages just eight wins these next two seasons, Wynn will pass Johnson at the top of that list. 

Of course, this isn't about comparing Wynn, a junior, to Johnson, who led the Utes to their greatest season in school history. This is about him charting his own path, while also shining light on the often ignored aspect of his success.

As a quarterback, Wynn is 1-0 in bowl games, 1-1 against BYU, 11-4 overall and joins Alex Smith as the only quarterback in Utah history to produce back-to-back top-25 seasons. 

Yet there hasn't been a more recent player who's accomplished so much and been so dismissed by a great deal of the Utah fan base. To be sure, Wynn hasn't been perfect. He wilted, badly, of course, against TCU and Notre Dame and the injuries he's suffered through the past year definitely cast doubt on his ability to take the Utes to the next level.

But I think we're quick to forget that this is a kid who, two seasons ago, was just a freshman thrust into a very difficult situation - taking over at halftime to spark a struggling offense and then, two weeks later, thrown to the dogs against a great Frogs team. 

Wynn and the Utes lost that game in ugly fashion and then followed it up a couple weeks later with a painful loss to BYU down in Provo. But the program, and our quarterback, bounced back nicely in the Poinsettia Bowl and, when a great deal of fans were about to write off the season, beat a solid Cal team en route to ten wins for only the fourth time in program history. 

He did that all as a freshman.

 

Maybe that has been the problem all along. Wynn came in as a highly touted recruit who quickly gained the confidence of Ute fans with his performance as a true freshman. Even in the lopsided loss to TCU, it wasn't because of Utah's offense - Wynn looked pretty solid in that game. 

Unfortunately, that success unraveled last season. After a blistering 8-0 start, where the Utes averaged a mind-numbing 45 points per game, the bottom fell out and 2010 is more remembered for what happened against the Frogs, Notre Dame, and, to a lesser extent, BYU rather than what happened in the early part of the year.

Wynn hasn't been able to shake those defeats, at least from the fans' point of view. Many are already skeptical of his ability, even when you don't account for his injury, which, oddly enough (or maybe not) coincided with that unraveling. The more games Wynn threw injured, the worse Utah's offense looked. He blitzed Iowa State, then turned around and struggled against Wyoming - before ripping apart Colorado State and struggling once more in three consecutive weeks.

Which takes us back to Brian Johnson. 

Johnson, like Wynn, had an up-and-down 2007 season after suffering an injury in the first game of the year. When he was rested, Johnson looked every bit the quarterback we all thought he would be when he lined up under center against Arizona at the start of the '05 season. But as the season progressed, and Johnson threw more and more, his shoulder looked less and less impressive. 

By the Holy War that year, Johnson was a bit bruised and battered and it led to Utah's offense being ineffective. They lost, in a painfully low scoring game down in Provo (sound familiar) and you got the sense that the season had taken its toll on his arm and his ability to lead a productive offense. 

There was essentially a month between his final regular season game and his MVP-performance in the Poinsettia Bowl against Navy. The rest did wonders and by 2008, his shoulder was fine and he was ready to lead the Utes to perfection. 

But like I said, this isn't about comparing Wynn to Johnson. I don't know if Wynn will ever best what Johnson and Utah did in 2008 - what I do know, is that, after that '07 BYU game, there were a lot of questions about Johnson's leadership and whether he was the man to win Utah's first Mountain West title since Urban Meyer bolted for Florida a few seasons prior. 

I was skeptical and I'm sure many of you were, as well, because, while he had done well enough, Johnson was 0-1 against BYU and sat at 13 wins and 7 losses - a far cry from the 21-1 record of Alex Smith. 

The difference here is that Wynn wasn't given a chance to rest his injury leading into the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State. He sat that out because of surgery and because of that, we don't know how well Utah would have played if Wynn, healthy, started over Terrance Cain

We're quick, I think, to just tie that loss around Wynn's neck, even though he wasn't the reason we lost the game. Maybe it makes sense, with how poorly the Utes looked once November rolled around, but it also isn't fair to him. He did have bad games and I'm not going to excuse those performances, well, outside what I already have, but it was Cain, not Wynn, who played and it was Cain, not Wynn, who made some of the mistakes we saw. 

I don't know if the performance would have been different, but then again, no one knows how 2010 would have turned out had Wynn not been injured against Iowa State. It's entirely possible they lose to TCU in the fashion they did, and maybe they do fall to Notre Dame due to the hangover effect - but those are unknowns and left only to speculation.

What I do know is that this is a new year for Wynn and this is his time to prove all those doubters wrong. Wynn is healthy - or at least the coaches say he is - and ready to finally produce a good, complete season as Utah's quarterback. That hasn't been the case the past two seasons. In year one, he was forced into the starting role after it became apparent Cain was not getting it done. In year two, either because of injury or poor play, the Utes faltered badly toward the end. This year, though, there should be no excuses. 

That sounds like a definitive statement and maybe it's too definitive, I don't know. Obviously, if Wynn's injured this year at any point and misses a game or two, or plays, but isn't the same, then that excuse - what he could have done as a healthy quarterback - will always hang over his head. Maybe Wynn is the quarterback who, for whatever reason, and of no fault of his own, just isn't durable enough to make it through the grueling twelve game schedule. But I'm not ready to concede that.

This is why I'm so intrigued by 2011. I believe Wynn has the tools to become one of the best quarterbacks in Utah history. I've already outlined his accomplishments above, his total wins and his closeness to surpassing Johnson on the wins list, and that will most likely be cemented this season. 

This is Jordan Wynn's time to shine. He's a junior now and almost everything he does this year will impact our view of him heading into his senior season. I'm not asking for a BCS berth or a Pac-12 title, but progress and a foundation that leads to potentially something very special in 2012. 

Then not only could Wynn claim the mantle of winningest quarterback in Utah football history, he also might claim the mantle of greatest quarterback in Utah football history.

No pressure, though. 

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