Fields Finally Makes Impact

PITTSBURGH -- At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Elijah Fields can make a big impact on the football field this year for the University of Pittsburgh.

That's been expected from the blue-chip athlete ever since he arrived on campus last summer, and in less than a year he appears to be ready to realize that immense potential. Fields, however, has been heard from as few times as his on-field accomplishments.

After the Blue-Gold game, though, Fields spoke extensively with the media and revealed a great deal about his career to date. Fields was soft-spoken, insightful and excited about the upcoming season.

"I wanted to go out there and just show people what I had and perform well to help this football team,'' Fields said about his Blue-Gold game performance. "I'm way ahead (from last fall).

"I know the system more. I can go out there and perform without having any questions about what to do. I know the system, so I'm ready to play now. That's the way it should be.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt recalled last season's situation with Fields. The Panthers tried to utilize his athleticism on special teams, since he wasn't able to grasp the defense, but Fields was so tentative -- apparently thinking about his assignment so he wouldn't make a mistake -- he barely made it downfield in time to get in on the tackle in the return game.

Now, Fields is more confident in his play. He can be a little more reckless, since he knows where to be, and can use his size, speed and athleticism to make plays. And he should improve with every snap.

"We all know about Elijah Fields and what we expect from him,'' Wannstedt said. "He definitely shows up. He made one tackle (in the Blue-Gold game) ... one on the sidelines and had the interception.

"But he made one at the line of scrimmage, and I don't know how he got there. He's an interesting player, a good player, and we're all looking forward to seeing where he's at when we get together again in the summer.''

Fields has a plan for his offseason.

"I came in (during the spring) like I needed to make an impact and just learn the system more so I could perform better, but that's all I tried to do,'' Fields said. "I just need to keep it up and take care of stuff off the field, with my grades, and I just want to get stronger and faster so I can compete.''

While Fields seemed to be in a fog, as far as his assignments were concerned during the the fall, he picked things up quickly in a short time during the spring. And that made a huge difference as far as his on-field performances were concerned. Fields explained the process.

"It's getting much easier for me, and it's moving at my pace now,'' Fields said. "Things are moving the way that I want them to be. So, I'm going pretty good now. But it wasn't easy at all for me when I came in here.

"There's a big transition from high school to college, learning the system and being out there and competing hard. You have to go through a lot, but I think I hit my transition point. And I'm all right now.''

Fields believed that players like himself and fellow freshmen from last fall like Jason Pinkston, Aaron Berry, Dorin Dickerson and T.J. Porter can make a "major impact'' after getting one season under their bests. Now that they have learned the system, it's much easier for them to make plays.

"I think all the reps I got in the fall and this spring have helped me progress,'' Berry said. "The same can be said about Elijah. He's a great athlete, and he really works hard every day.

"He's just trying to work hard to learn the defense and get it down, and he competes very hard. So, as long as he keeps that up and keeps doing what he's doing, he'll be on the field. That should be no problem for him.''

Wannstedt had high expectations as well, but they've been there from the beginning as far as Fields is concerned.

"He's got skill,'' Wannstedt said. "We knew that when we recruited him. The biggest thing he needs is the day-to-day consistency. That's not a secret. A lot of freshmen are that way, whether you're going to class, the weight room or the football field. It's all the same.

"One ties in with the other. The quicker he jumps on board and figures that out, the sky's the limit there. He's made a lot of progress. He missed the first six practices, so throw six more practices to where he's at right now and I think we'd be even more pleased. But he'll keep improving.''

And Pitt can expect him to make an even bigger impact this fall.

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