LinebackerTony Fields II has been practicing with West Virginia for a little more than one week, and yet the Arizona graduate transfer is already impressing his new head coach.
“He really runs and you can tell he loves to play the game,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “(He) plays at full speed every snap, great in pursuit, he’s learning our movements, he’s got great energy and he’s physical at the point of contact. Excited about him, what he’s going to bring all-around to our defense.”
Fields had 94 tackles, five tackles for a loss and one interception last season for what was an overall poor Wildcat defense. Now with the Mountaineers, Fields was named to the Senior Bowl Watch List and is expected to provide a boost to a West Virginia linebacking corps that was dangerously thin in 2019.
“With Tony coming in it gives us some flexibility,” Brown said. It gives us some depth at those positions and some flexibility. Especially when we start going to our nickel and our dime package.”
Brown explained that Fields can play both the mike and will linebacker positions, adding depth and freeing up where some other guys can go. WVU uses three linebacker positions – mike, will and bandit.
Brown specifically mentioned redshirt-freshman Jared Bartlett, who was originally listed at mike linebacker at the start of camp alongside Dylan Tonkery. With Fields now able to play mike, Bartlett is free to provide depth at bandit as well.
“Bartlett and (VanDarius Cowan) both can get in that bandit position…(Tonkery) is still there at mike…Exree Loe has played well with Josh (Chandler-Semedo) at will,” Brown said.
Although technically a returner, Cowan too will provide the Mountaineers with some depth that they did not have a season ago. A transfer from Alabama, Cowan was suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season and missed six more games with a season-ending knee injury.
“(Cowan) practiced last year while he was suspended then he played in those two games so we got a pretty good look at him them, but this has been the longest period he’s had to run with the ones and the twos,” Brown said.
At will, WVU returns both Loe and Chandler-Semedo. The pair combined to make 112 tackles with seven tackles for loss and four passes defended last season and Chandler-Semedo was named an All-Big 12 honorable mention. The plan at linebacker right now, according to Brown, is to play Fields and Tonkery at mike, Cowan and Bartlett at Bandit and Loe and Chandler-Semedo at will.