This is the third edition of spring practice for Tony Fields II, and like the first two he is being guided by a different Arizona Wildcats position coach. For 2019 it’s John Rushing, who last season handled Arizona’s safeties but was moved to linebackers while defensive coordinator Marcel Yates works with safeties.
Fields’ breakout freshman season came under the guidance of Scott Boone, who was not retained by Kevin Sumlin when he took over the program last year.
While not ideal, Fields has put a positive spin on the coaching turnover and hopes it will help him rebound from what he felt was a less-than-impressive sophomore campaign.
“Most people think of it (in) as negative way, like we’re getting taught three different things, but I think of it (in) a positive way because we’re getting more tools to our toolbox each year,” Fields said Wednesday. “Even within two weeks with Coach Rush, we’ve learned so many new things.”
Fields was second on Arizona in tackles last year with 89, 30 behind fellow linebacker Colin Schooler. But that was down from 2017 when he had a team-high 104 tackles, and he was lacking in terms of impact plays with just 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
“Last season had its ups and downs with me,” Fields said. “I just know I need to get better at all times. I want to improve everywhere. I can’t nitpick anything.”
A shoulder injury suffered in late September impacted Fields’ play, though he felt he was at his best in the final games after Arizona’s bye in early November.
In Rushing, he gets a coach who has experience working with linebackers on special teams while with the St. Louis Rams in 2016 but also one who coached on the offensive side. Rushing said he hopes to use that background to help Fields and the other linebackers understand what’s going on elsewhere on the field.
He won’t be completely unaware of the guys he’s working with, since Day Day Coleman has been moved over from safety for his sophomore year.
“That was kind of in the plan,” Rushing said. “He came in as a kid with the physical ability to play safety or linebacker. We knew he was going to grow into a linebacker. That gives us some depth.”
Rushing believes Fields can still get so much better, and to that end he’s pitting him and Anthony Pandy against each other in spring ball.
“I think competition brings the best out of you,” Rushing said. “Letting him know before the season that he and Pandy were battling a little bit here in spring. I think Tony’s a competitor. He was disappointed in his sophomore season after having a great freshman year. He’s ready to go, he’s been showing it, playing at a high speed.”