May 4, 2013

Fields emerges as post-spring starter

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Ohio State opened up its spring practice two months ago, Jordan Hall found himself firmly entrenched in the Buckeyes' H-back/'pivot' position. But as the old cliche goes, it's not about where you start, but where you finish.

After 15 spring practices, a new player had been named the starter at the spot that Percy Harvin made famous while playing under current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer at Florida. And while the new starter's status as a senior certainly qualifies him as a likely contributor on paper, he still finds himself as an underdog while entering his fifth season in Columbus.

Chris Fields has been a scholarship player for the Buckeyes during the first four seasons of his college career, although you wouldn't know it by looking at his stat sheets. After redshirting in 2009, the Painesville, Ohio native tallied just 15 catches in three seasons of action, while recording 191 receiving yards and one touchdown reception.

Fields did play a crucial role in Ohio State's come-from-behind over Purdue in 2012, but aside from his 2-yard touchdown against the Boilermakers, his college career had been unremarkable at best.

"I was thinking too much about on and off the field stuff," Fields said. "I wasn't really glued into my right mindset."

That no longer appears to be the case.

When Hall missed time in spring practice with a pulled hamstring, it was Fields who was called upon to replace him in the starting lineup. The fifth-year senior-to-be took full advantage of the opportunity, as seen evident by Meyer's comments about him following the Buckeyes' spring game.

"I'm going to name him a starter today," Meyer said. "Chris Fields has earned the starting spot, which is amazing. He is a wonderful guy that last year was very inconsistent.

"He's earned the starting spot."

According to Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, Fields' turnaround has coincided with a change in his approach. Physical talent has never been a problem for the former four-star prospect, but rather it was a lack of focus both on and off the field that forced him to spend the first four seasons of his college career standing on the sideline.

"He was always talented enough to play here," Smith said. "There was just a different level of commitment by him both in learning the offense, understanding the offense and really developing himself fundamentally as a wide receiver. He did a great job this spring. I couldn't have been happier with what he did."

One would've thought that last spring could've been Fields' time to shine, with the arrival of Meyer and his staff giving each Buckeye a fresh start heading into 2012. But the 6-foot, 200-pounder quickly fell behind on the depth chart, and only appeared in eight of Ohio State's 12 games in 2012.

Fields admitted that he didn't get off the best start with the Buckeyes' new coaching staff, and as a result, his playing time diminished.

"Last year I didn't have a good first impression when Coach Meyer came here," he said. "And that led to camp being with the twos, and I just faded away."

The Harvey high school product said that the lack of success that he experienced early in his college career made him question whether not Ohio State was the right place for him, but he ultimately opted to stick out his time in Columbus. After his superb spring, Fields is hopeful that his commitment to the Buckeyes will pay off, as it's now or never for the fifth-year senior.

"I never was going to quit on Ohio State," Fields said. "This is my time to shine."


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