At 6-foot-2 and nearly 225 pounds, Elijah Fields has a size, speed and athleticism many believe to be a collegiate All-American as well. However, off-field issues and his inability to comprehend the complex Pittsburgh defense have held the redshirt sophomore back to this point.
Fields played primarily on special team as a freshman, was suspended for last season and redshirted and has been the backup strong safety to sophomore Dom DeCicco for the opening two games this year. However, Fields played in Pitt's base defense for the first time against Buffalo and certainly earned more snaps -- if not the starting job -- against Iowa Nov. 20 at noon at Heinz Field.
"Elijah has been working hard,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "(And) we put him in as an underneath coverage guy, a little package that we have for him. And then we put him back there at safety, and he made plays. He also played special teams, so that was his first time getting quite a bit of work.
"And I thought he played well. He knocked down a pass there at the end across the middle, and it was his first time playing, really. So, he did a fine job. It was good to get him back in there on defense. We're going to need him.''
DeCicco has nine total tackles in two games, including eight solo, and two pass breakups. Fields has just one pass breakup and no tackles this season, but he appeared to be thrilled to get his first opportunity play defense at Pitt.
"I definitely got some good playing time out there, and I was happy about that,'' Fields said. "We'll have to go back to look at the film, but I think we played pretty well. There were a couple missed tackles and a miscommunication in the secondary, but I think we did a good job for the most part.
"It's a great feeling to get back on the field and help my team to a victory. The game speed kind of changed a little bit for me in the second half once I was out there for a while, and I think I played a little better. I think we got into a good rhythm and stopped them a couple times with big plays.''
The latter part of Fields' comments are important. Just getting in the game was beneficial, and it would appear to reason that playing time for any inexperienced underclassman would be an asset. Fifth-year senior Scott McKillop said as much after the Buffalo win.
"Outside of Austin Ransom, our linebackers are real young, and none have much experience,'' McKillop said. "It's tough for them to pick our defense up quickly, but they're coming along. The same thing for some guys up front and in the secondary, but they're all getting better. We just have to be patient.''
It's been more than a two-year wait for Fields to contribute, so it's time.
Fields Jockeys For Playing Time
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