Kyle Whittingham and the Utah Utes will be starting a true freshman at left tackle when they open the season on Thursday against the Florida Gators.

Spencer Fano won the job in camp. It was clear he was the best option, Whittingham said Monday when he met with reporters.

“He has gotten better and better since he arrived on campus in the spring,” the Utah head coach said. “He’s gotten bigger. He was a little undersized when we first got him, in the mid-280s. I think I mentioned last week he’s over 300 now, which is where he needed to get.

The Spanish Fork native was Utah’s highest-rated signee out of the 2023 class. In each of the last four years, Utah has signed one of the six highest-rated recruits to ever join the program.

There was Clark Phillips III in the 2020 class. Then Ethan Calvert in the 2021 class. Then Lander Barton in the 2022 class. And now Fano.

Phillips and Barton were instant starters and immediately successful in the Utah system. Fano has the opportunity to do the same.

It’s rare for a true freshman to come in and earn a job along the offensive line. The job from high school ball to major college football is a huge one. First-year linemen often need a good bit of maturing before they’re ready.

But Fano got after it this offseason. Twenty pounds of good weight in one offseason is impressive. And then he parlayed that work into a strong camp.

“He simply was the best performer,” Whittingham said. “It’s not very common to have your left tackle be a true freshman, but he is talented enough and has performed well enough against really good players. It’s not like he’s going against average Joe’s. He’s got Jonah Elliss, Logan Fano, Van Fillinger. Those are quality defensive ends and he’s held his own versus those guys.”

On Thursday, he’ll get a group of hungry Gators. And with the questions at the quarterback spot, Utah needs Fano to be what he has been so far this offseason.