Marquise Blair leaned up against brick in the shadows just outside Utah’s locker room offering a high-five to every player filing in before kick off. He was still in his warm-ups, suspended for the first half after receiving a targeting call and ensuing suspension in Utah’s win at Arizona on September 22. So the junior safety anxiously looked on in the first half against Stanford, itching to run out and help patrol the back end.

“I was fine. I wasn’t worried about it,” he said. “I just wanted to come in and make as many plays as I can.”

Once suited up, Blair delivered the way he’s accustomed to.

With the sort of loud, punishing, highlight-reel hits on the field fans are accustomed to seeing Utah safeties do.

And Utah’s coaching staff has taken note of his steady rise, too.

On Monday, the junior college transfer was named Utah’s new starting free safety. After rotating with Corrion Ballard, and at times strong safety Chase Hansen, Blair’s big-hitting, physical style will be featured on a more routine basis in the defensive backfield.

“Not surprised,” Blair said of earning the starting spot, “just been working hard.”

“He’s instinctive, he’ll hit you, at times he seems to be playing at a different speed than anyone else,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “The play will be going on and then all of a sudden, there’s this blur.”

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Blair is an explosive athlete, Whittingham said. A player who runs below a 4.5 40-yard dash. But once he’s locked onto a defender, you can count on a thud coming. His five second-half tackles against Stanford were second most he’s had in a game this season, perhaps a prelude of what’s to come.

“Barely 190 pounds,” Whittingham said, “but he’ll hit you like he’s 250 pounds.”

Snapping drama

Kyle Whittingham laid out a timeline on the Utes’ long-snapping game from the outset, because the struggles at one of the more unique positions on the team is becoming too apparent for his liking.

“Bottom-line,” he said, “there’s too much drama going on right now with the snaps, and we’ve got to get it fixed.”

Senior tight end Harrison Handley was the heir apparent to former long-snapper Chase Dominguez, who started four years at Utah. Whittingham called the former snapper flawless. But when Handley was hurt this fall, the Utes were left searching. A potential replacement left because there wasn’t a scholarship available. The next option broke his arm. Then senior Alex Whittingham threw his name in the hat and started off the season well, but has struggled the last two games.

Going forward, Handley will serve as the long-snapper, while Alex Whittingham will handle the short snaps.

Brotherly love

His mom broke the news. Everything in the Fotu family filters through mom, so when she informed Leki that his younger brother, David, decided to commit to Utah, the sophomore defensive tackle was elated. In his official visit Saturday, David saw Leki make his first career start.

“I kind of knew that he was going to commit to us,” Leki said. “I just didn’t want to force him into anything.”

David Fotu, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound tight end and defensive lineman at Herriman High, had previously verbally committed to BYU.

“I don’t think that any other school would be more perfect than here,” Leki said.

Odds and ends

Freshman defensive back Javelin Guidry moved ahead of senior Boobie Hobbs as the starting nickel back … Kicker Hayes Hicken is now the back-up to Matt Gay, replacing freshman Chayden Johnston. … Utah’s next home game against Arizona State (Oct. 21) will kick off at either 1:30 or 2 p.m., and will be broadcast on either FOX or FS1.