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Los Angeles • The lunch table reserved with the "Kyle Whittingham" card was packed during the Pac-12 Football Media Day, while Utah's coach looked around for somewhere to eat his sandwich.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was swarmed by reporters in Whittingham's spot. If any scene could illustrate what Utah is getting into in this league, this was it. The Pac-12 is filled with high-level quarterbacks. As the Utes try to find their place in the conference, their 2011 mission is twofold: defending those QBs and developing one of their own.
"I don't know if it's just an anomaly for a league to have so many great quarterbacks at once," Whittingham said, "or if it's like this all the time."
They're not all quite like Luck, a Heisman Trophy contender. What's more, the Utes would face him or Oregon's Darron Thomas only if they advance to the conference championship game. Yet the partial list of quarterbacks they will deal with in the Pac-12 South is impressive enough: USC's Matt Barkley, Arizona State's Brock Osweiler and Arizona's Nick Foles.
If the Utes expect to compete in this "conference of quarterbacks," as the promotional video suggests, Jordan Wynn will have to deliver.
So as the Utes start practicing this week, there could be no more intriguing player in their camp. Wynn is coming back from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the Las Vegas Bowl and to a degree that remains something of a mystery affected the second half of his season.
Wynn struggled against Texas Christian and Notre Dame and was benched in the third quarter against BYU, only to direct a winning drive. His last pass, prior to surgery, was a 29-yard completion to Dallin Rogers, leading to Utah's go-ahead touchdown.
Somehow, though, that's not the lasting impression of Wynn. My sense of the overriding view in Uteville is that this guy needs to prove himself against the quality of competition Utah will face in the Pac-12.
The South features Barkley, Osweiler, Foles … and Jordan Wynn?
"Jordan definitely will step up into that group of elite Pac-12 quarterbacks," said Ute offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom. "I have all the faith in the world in him."
Bergstrom joked about being a "diversity" choice to represent the Utes at the Fox Studios the other day, as the only lineman among the famous quarterbacks and other players. His selection was no commentary on Wynn; besides being a senior, Bergstrom is an outstanding player, student and interview subject.
Just the same, the volume of star QBs on display in that courtyard at lunchtime was striking. The irony of Norm Chow's high-profile hiring as Utah's offensive coordinator is that Whittingham wanted a pro-style offense that emphasizes running the football, as opposed to the kind of all-out passing scheme that built Chow's reputation. Still, there will be times when the Utes have to throw the ball to succeed, when they won't be able to win without Wynn.
While working at UCLA, Chow witnessed all of the conference's quarterbacks in action. Whittingham says he trusts Chow's judgment that Wynn is a genuine, Pac-12-level quarterback based on the knowledge of the game he displayed during the spring while being idled by his injury.
This week, Chow actually will see Wynn throw the football.
Thursday, Aug. 4 Practice begins.
Aug. 20 Camp ends.
Sept. 1 First game, at home vs. Montana State.
Sept. 10 First Pac-12 game, at USC.