Conan Amituanai is in a good place. Just look at him.

The Arizona Wildcats' starting left guard lines up between left tackle Adam Grant and center Colin Baxter, two of the team's best players, on every snap.

Together, the three 300-pounders provide a solid wall of protection for quarterback Nick Foles' blind side and clear holes for the Wildcats' running game.

"When I've got Colin on my right and Adam on my left, it doesn't get any better," Amituanai said. "I gotta step up my game."

He is doing just that in spring drills, cementing a starting job at left guard after starting six games there in 2009.

The junior is expected to be one of the anchors of the UA's veteran line this fall.

Co-offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh calls Amituanai "one of our five best linemen."

"He's comfortable now," Bedenbaugh said. "He's comfortable with what he's doing. He's comfortable with the technique. And now he's confident. Once he's confident, he has all the tools he needs."

The 6-foot-3-inch, 335-pounder just laughs.

The praise is a far cry from previous seasons, when Amituanai - a converted tight end and defensive tackle - struggled with the nuances of the position.

At first, Amituanai said, he knew how to get into a three-point stance but nothing else. He spent years learning blocking schemes and technique before emerging as a starter last season.

"I'm definitely getting more attention as an O-lineman," he said, "as opposed to when I was running around trying to be the biggest fat guy running with the ball."

Amituanai, 22, was set for a breakout season last fall before being double-teamed by injuries and bad luck.

He started the UA's first five games of the season before spraining an MCL in his knee in the first half of Arizona's loss at Washington.

The injury knocked Amituanai out of the game and, for the most part, removed him from the Wildcats' 2009 plans.

He started just one more game, the UA's regular-season finale win over USC. Herman Hall got the starting nod in Arizona's Holiday Bowl loss to Nebraska.

Healthy and motivated, Amituanai said he's ready to shine this fall.

He credits an off-season meeting with Bedenbaugh for turning around his thinking.

The coach's message, he said, was simple: You're good enough to start, so be successful.

"He basically told me that in order to be a great offense and a great offensive line, I have to step up and be a great player," Amituanai said. "That goes for all of us. We have six seniors. I have confidence in them."

Up next

• What: UA spring game

• When: April 10, 1:30 p.m.

• Where: Arizona Stadium

• Admission: Free