The Big 12 Conference has had some dynamic newcomers on both sides of the ball in the 2020 season. You can look at Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn, Texas RB Bijan Robinson, Oklahoma WR Marvin Mims, or Texas Tech LB Colin Schooler as potential Big 12 Newcomer of the Year candidates. But I'm not sure any of them will be able to catch up with West Virginia linebacker Tony Fields II who has been lights out this season.
Fields II transferred from Arizona late in the summer and joined the team at the beginning of fall camp. In eight games this season, Fields II not only leads West Virginia in tackles (79) but leads the entire Big 12 Conference with the league's 2nd leading tackler 22 tackles behind.
Seeing Fields II play this well is nothing new. As a freshman at Arizona, he registered 104 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks and has continued to get stronger every year. Earlier this season, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown spoke on his potential and how he still has some room to improve and become even better than he already is.
"He plays with a lot of energy. He brings a speed element to the defense that we probably haven't had in my two years here. He's still learning what to do, but he plays full speed. He loves contact, loves to play, and he's only going to continue to get better. He’s an NFL prospect. I mean, he’s going to play in the NFL.”
Not only is Fields II making a case for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, but will likely be in the discussion for the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year. Anytime West Virginia needs a stop, he's always right there making the play or eating up a block, paving the way for one of his teammates to make a play.
Quarterbacks like Sam Ehlinger of Texas and Max Duggan of TCU were not huge factors running the football like they typically are, and Fields II played a significant role in slowing them down. The one game that the quarterback run game hurt the Mountaineers was against Henry Colombi and Texas Tech - a game where Fields was ejected on the first play of the 2nd quarter for targeting.
In all likelihood, West Virginia's defense would still be one of the best defenses in the Big 12 if Fields II never transferred in, but he is taking this defense to the next level by helping make it the best unit in the country.
The Mountaineers have just two games left on their schedule: vs. Oklahoma and at Iowa State. For West Virginia to win both of those contests, Fields II and the Mountaineers defense will have to execute at a high level.
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