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From the Stands: Chow's one and done

From the Stands: Chow's one and done

By Sean Reynolds, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Dec. 23, 2011 at 3:00 p.m.



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY - Norm Chow's career as the Utes' offensive coordinator only lasted one year. Surely it was far more brief than Kyle Whittingham had hoped for when Chow agreed to take the job last January.

So, was his one-year stay worth it?

I don't know if there is a definitive answer yet. Chow certainly brought some prestige to the team and he definitely helped sell the program to potential recruits. Both Travis Wilson and Chase Hansen mentioned Chow's leadership as part of the reason they signed with Utah. Fortunately, even with Chow now departing to coach at Hawaii, their commitments appear to be as strong as ever - an issue that concerned many Ute fans when Chow's name was linked to the Warriors' vacant coaching job.

Where Utah might have benefited from the most, though, was Chow's understanding of what it took to win in the Pac-12. His time spent with the USC Trojans and their crosstown rival UCLA throughout much of the last ten years was invaluable when it came to preparing the Utes for the challenges of their new conference. He knew exactly what Utah was getting into and I think that leadership, especially with Jordan Wynn's injury and the uncertainty on offense, helped keep the team afloat during some turbulent times.

Chow very well could have been the difference between what we got and a potential losing season.

Norm Chow poses after being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Hawaii during an NCAA college football news conference in Honolulu, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. Chow is currently the University of Utah offensive coordinator and will become the first Asian-American head of a major college program.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Norm Chow poses after being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Hawaii during an NCAA college football news conference in Honolulu, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. Chow is currently the University of Utah offensive coordinator and will become the first Asian-American head of a major college program.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Because of that, I think, at least short term, the Chow hire, no matter how brief, worked out well enough for Utah. The current staff learned the ropes of a new conference under a veteran who had been there before - from Kyle Whittingham on down to Aaron Roderick, who very well could return as the Utes' offensive coordinator next season.

The move to the Pac-12, what it takes to compete in a BCS conference, is really downplayed locally because I think most just assumed Utah could make the leap without much difficulty. Even if you consider the weakness of the Pac-12 South, the level of competition improved two-fold from what Utah had seen in the Mountain West. The weekly grind of BCS competition was something no one on the staff outside Chow had really experienced. He was able, I think, to keep things in perspective and that helped Utah bounce back from an 0-4 conference start.

I don't know if that happens without Chow.

Of course, this is all subjective and it's entirely possible everything I attributed to Chow would have happened regardless of who was calling plays and coaching the offense. We'll never know. What I do know is that, last year, Utah's offense, in a great deal of their big games, not only underperformed, but often performed abysmally. This year, as anemic as the offense was at times, I felt, outside the loss to Cal, the play calling and coaching was far superior than what we saw last year and because of it, the Utes were able to hold their own against the bigger and better programs than they did in 2010.

Now the hope is, especially if Roderick is promoted, the coaching staff, specifically on the offensive side, learned enough from Chow in his short stay here that they can now put together a consistent offense that is up to the standards of the Pac-12. Because I think every Ute fan would agree that the offense we saw in 2010 will not cut it in the Pac-12 and it's a big reason why, I think, Whittingham decided to bring Chow on board - the hope he could teach the current coaching staff what it takes to win in the Pac-12.

Norm Chow the University of Utah's new Offensive Coordinator gives some instruction to Quarterback Jordan Wynn during the first practice of spring Tuesday, March 8, 2011 in the indoor practice facility. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
Norm Chow the University of Utah's new Offensive Coordinator gives some instruction to Quarterback Jordan Wynn during the first practice of spring Tuesday, March 8, 2011 in the indoor practice facility. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Was he able to do that in only one year? I think that will ultimately answer the original question on whether or not his stay with the Utes was worth it...at least in the long run.

I think it was, but there are definitely some concerns. Outside Wilson and Hansen, how many recruits will stay with Utah the next month or so? How will the revolving door of coordinators (four and counting since the Sugar Bowl) impact the continuity and success of this team? Utah went from running the spread option to adopting a more pro-style offense under Chow, but does that now change to an entirely new offense if Whittingham brings in a new coordinator? If it does, can the team handle three different offenses in three years? If Roderick is Chow's replacement, will he be comfortable enough running the offense Chow implemented? Did he learn enough to run it?

Those are some mighty big questions and the fact the answers are unknown, especially heading into a year where the talent on the offensive side of the ball is at a competitive level, I'm sure leaves a good deal of Ute fans a bit nervous watching this process unfold.

Will the team continue building on the momentum we saw throughout the second half of this season or will this change inevitably knock the program back a spot or two?

I'm guessing the answer will define Chow's legacy here. But at the moment, it appears the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

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