Now that Norm Chow has been hired as offensive coordinator at Utah, what does this mean for the Utes?
This is a great hire for a few reasons. First and foremost, his knowledge of the Pac-12 is absolutely needed as Utah heads into its new conference for 2011. Chow may not have set off fireworks at UCLA, but he is infinitely familiar with the league following his stints there and at USC -- where he won two national championships. Utah is going to have to put in much more time studying tape and breaking down opponents than everybody but Colorado. Chow will be able to help with that, pointing out areas of weaknesses on defenses, or certain schemes and game plans of the opposition. Remember, Utah will play in the same division as his former schools, USC and UCLA.
Second, the Utah offense was downright awful in its three losses last season. Utah scored a combined 13 points in those games, setbacks to TCU, Notre Dame and Boise State. Quarterback Jordan Wynn was ineffective in the losses to TCU and Notre Dame (he missed the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against the Broncos), throwing three interceptions to one touchdown. Utah averaged 221 yards of total offense in those three games. While you may try to rationalize the performance because two of the losses came against two of the best defenses in the country, you can also admit the Utah offense looked ragged and out of sorts in all three of those games.
Third, Wynn is going to be out for spring with a shoulder injury, but this is a critical season coming up for him. It is hard to judge his sophomore season because he was injured early with a sprained thumb, and there is no telling how the shoulder injury affected him down the stretch. Remember, he was ineffective for most of the BYU game, too. But there is a lot of pressure on Wynn to be able to lead this offense in its first season in the Pac-12. He has the talent and the arm, but there are those who are now wondering whether he can put it all together and take the Utes one step further.
As for the offensive philosophy, Chow told ESPNLosAngeles.com he does not plan on changing much. "It's not like I have to go in and change the world, they were (10-3) last year," he said. The Deseret News suggested there may be more snaps from center and more downhill running.
One area of concern is running back, where Utah has to replace its top rushing duo of Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. Sausan Shakerin also won't return because repeated concussions have ended his career. This should be one of the biggest position battles heading into the fall -- although Utah is expected to get relief with highly touted prospect Harvey Langi, who has given a verbal to the Utes over USC. Utah also has a junior college transfer in John White who should compete immediately.
There are some downsides to the hiring that should be addressed. Chow has now had messy departures from his past three jobs (if you include his brief stint at offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans). Coach Kyle Whittingham has not addressed how he will handle co-offensive coordinators Dave Schramm and Aaron Roderick, except to say there will be some staff reshuffling. You could also say the last time Chow showed flashes of his mastermind self was back in 2004 at USC -- seven years ago.
But overall, this is a huge plus with the move to the Pac-12 looming. Perhaps only he uniquely knows what is in store for the Utes.
"I think the Pac-10 is obviously a whole different deal. I think top to bottom is what makes the difference," Chow told the Deseret News. "The Pac-10 top to bottom, there are awfully good teams with awfully talented players and talented coaches — a lot of guys with NFL experience and so forth. It's going to be hard. No question about it."