We knew he was a good player and we were elated to get him in the program when we did. But he has exceeded expectations. He’s made himself into a great player. – Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham

SALT LAKE CITY — Jason Fanaika has found a home on the football field. The Utah senior, who split time at linebacker and defensive end last season, is now entrenched on the line. He’s the Utes’ starting end on the right side.

“I like that a lot. It’s nice. I get to get a nice mesh going with the front seven. You get to be able to play with each other. So everybody clicks,” Fanaika said. “It’s kind of like back in high school or junior high growing up, you have a set of guys that you play with so you know exactly what they’re going to do. You know their tendencies.

“Now that I get to stay at one position I get to be more comfortable and get to know what everybody else is doing. So that when the time comes and the plays come then they’re going to be made,” he continued.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham also sees the move as a positive.

“I think what’s really helped him this year and why he’s coming into his own is we’re leaving him in one spot,” Whittingham said. “Last year, he was asked to do a little bit a linebacker as well and got diluted a little bit. But now he’s focused in on one spot and he’s becoming a master of that spot.”

Whittingham noted Fanaika’s work ethic in the weight room. He called him explosive and the strongest guy on the team.

Fanaika played two seasons at Utah State before serving and LDS Church mission in Indianapolis. He then transferred to Utah.

“We knew he was a good player and we were elated to get him in the program when we did,” Whittingham said. “But he has exceeded expectations. He’s made himself into a great player.”

Fanaika is trying note to get caught up in the hoopla of basically filling a vacancy on the line held by national sacks leader Nate Orchard, who is now with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

“All I’m trying to do is help out our defense, get turnovers and win us some games,” he said.

EITHER ONE: Utah linebacker Jared Norris isn’t all that concerned about which Michigan quarterback — junior Shane Morris or Iowa transfer Jake Rudock — starts on Thursday.

“They’re both going to make the same kind of throws and all that,” Norris said. “They’re both pretty mobile and run when they need to. So it’s just going to come down to making adjustments.”

EXTRA POINTS: Michigan special teams coordinator John Baxter’s father-in-law is former Utah coach Ron McBride. He is also good friends with Whittingham . . . The Wolverines plan to wear all-white uniforms, a throwback to their look in the 1970s . . . The Utes are 8-12 against teams from the Big Ten Conference.

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