SALT LAKE CITY — Norm Chow has coached some wonderful quarterbacks over the years.
His current one reminds the offense-coordinating wizard of one of his best — a Utah player getting compared to a BYU legend, no less.
"Ty Detmer," Chow says with absolutely zero hesitation when asked Thursday after Utah's first fall-camp practice who junior Jordan Wynn reminds him of.
Well, the pair have one thing in common. Wynn happened to be born in 1990, the same year Detmer won the Heisman Trophy as a Cougar. He is undersized by today's standards (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and more known for his savvy than his rocket arm. Detmer fans would probably understand.
"Same size, same skills, same smarts, same attitude," said Chow, 65, who spent from 1965-67 as an offensive lineman at Utah and is now back on the Hill.
He coached at BYU from 1973-99 before finding reason to call up U-Haul a few times. He has been four places in the last decade, including three universities (North Carolina State, USC, UCLA) along with a three-year stint in the NFL with Tennessee.
He spent the past three seasons in UCLA, unable to duplicate his wild success from 2001-04 at USC.
Chow, through a Utes media rep, has zero desire right now to talk about his Pac-12 Conference background. (A Daily Herald reporter was warned as much, that he doesn't want to talk about his past unless the former employer shows up on the schedule; apparently he's being bogged down by those types of requests.)
Chow would much rather talk about Wynn, who is trying to overcome significant surgery to his throwing shoulder.
The Utes don't at this point have a valid backup plan. They enter the highly anticipated move to a new league with a guy who could be one of the best signal callers around, if he can stay healthy.
"I felt good," Wynn said after the first session. "No pain, no soreness."
He is being held to a "pitch count," not allowed to throw more than 100 passes during the next few weeks. He was at 79 on day one and said he doesn't anticipate nearing the century mark, which would basically amount to the sum of three or four games of pass attempts.
He expressed excitement to work with Chow, who has produced names like Philip Rivers and Matt Leinart among a host of BYU treasures.
Somewhat ironically, neither Chow nor UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel — who made a splash by hiring him after Chow had worked at the rival school — had any luck together in producing a viable Bruin quarterback. Neuheisel even played the position there, and that was supposed to be one of his few sure-thing successes.
Wynn said he likes the idea of being under center more, rather than in shotgun formation like the previous spread offense predicated. Wynn also liked the concepts of how Chow's offense is in theory supposed to augment the Ute running attack. The Utes, due to graduation, don't have a backfield member who has rushed at the FBS level.
"I've known him for a long time — known of him. I was excited," said Wynn, a southern California native. "To actually see him out here in Utah equipment is pretty awesome."
For Chow, it's pretty shocking.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think this was going to happen," said Chow, who said he went on a brisk walk of campus for the first time in a long time a few days ago.
He met his wife there. She grew up near Hogle Zoo. When Chow played, Nielsen Fieldhouse was the locker room. Now, it's the student gymasium. Of course, the Trax line bisecting campus wasn't around.
"Not many people have a chance to have everything come full circle," Chow said.
Not quite like the old days: This is Kyle Whittingham's seventh year as head coach, and he said there wouldn't be many big changes despite the move into the Pac-12.
But one was noticeable, and loud.
The Utes will be pumping music all practice into their workouts. Nothing recorded after 2000, mind you, will fire on the K-pod.
The mission is to replicate stadium noise.
"It keeps things a little more lively," Whittingham said. "But the intent is not to entertain them. The intent is to be able to think, focus and react when there's a distraction."
Offensive lineman John Cullen called it the "Utah way," with no pomp or circumstance around the new circumstances.
"We would have practiced the same way, this hard, no matter what league we were in," he said.
Players will get to choose the music they stretch to pre-practice, then Whittingham gets his choice. He says there won't be "U2" and it sounds like often he'll pick tunes that are more annoying than toe-tapping.
That's gotta sting...really: Utah linebacker Brian Blechen left practice early with a strange ailment.
He swallowed a bee, and the sting swelled his throat.
Whittingham quipped that if it hadn't been Blechen, he would have been more skeptical about such a dubious injury during a tiring workout.