conference's elite tailbacks
Quietly Confident Fields Accepts New Role for 1998
Bear tailback ready for action.
Aug. 17, 1998
Quietly confident. What else can you say about Cal tailback Marcus Fields.
He wears No. 4 and, although you'd have a difficult time getting him to admit it, many, like the Sporting News which tabbed him as a second team All-Conference selection in its 1998 college football preview magazine, consider him to be one of the premier running backs in the talent-laden Pacific-10 Conference.
Only a sophomore, Fields is penciled in as the starter at tailback on the Golden Bears depth chart. His role on this year's Cal squad will be, with out a doubt, huge. The Cal's coaching staff has said that there is the potential for him to get as many as 25 carries a game. A lot to shoulder for a young man who hasn't even reached his 20th birthday.
But Fields is undaunted by his role. He accepts it with a measure of comfort and maturity that belies his age. He is not awed nor is he overly excited. But he is ready.
In this day and age, when sports all too frequently devolves into the realm of trash-talk and in-your-face bravado, Fields is a throw-back to an earlier era. An era before Neon Deon and Dennis Rodman. An era when a player's actions spoke louder than his words.
"When I'm on the field, I like to let other people do the talking," Fields says of his on-field demeanor. "I just do whatever I need to do to take care of my job."
And the Cal coaching staff believes Fields will have little trouble taking care of business this fall. Their confidence in the Stockton, Calif., native came to the fore this spring when the Bears brain trust moved the often explosive Deltha O'Neal from tailback to cornerback to help shore up the Cal secondary. A back with good size (6-2, 210) and strength (300 lb. bench press), the Bears coaches see Fields as possessing the coveted ability to both punish would-be tacklers and the speed to blow by them (4.45 in the 40).
Cal fans got a taste of Fields' ability last season when, as the Bears primary backup to Tarik Smith, the then true freshman rushed for 419 yards on 95 carries, a 4.4 yard average. He also found pay dirt five times, including an impressive 20-yard burst on third-and-two at UCLA that was one of Cal's longest runs from scrimmage on the season. Fields also displayed a propensity for breaking tackles, a feat relatively unheard of for a true freshman, and was brought down behind the line of scrimmage on only eight of his 95 rushes, losing a paltry 12 yards for the entire season.
But in typical Fields fashion, he underplays the success of his inaugural campaign and continues to focus how he can improve.
"I thought I performed all right last season but I could have done better," Fields said. "I feel I could have gotten more out of each carry. But I look at it as a good learning experience and I hope to build on it this year."
Though clearly the feature back in the Bears 1998 attack, Fields headed to camp Friday afternoon after turning in his final summer school assignment as level-headed as ever. And though some with his kind of job security would be tempted to coast through what is sure to be a hot and physically demanding 10-day stretch in Turlock, he realizes what's at stake and that much of Cal's offensive success this season will depend on his ability to chew up yardage.
"Even though I'm going to camp as the starter, my approach remains the same as it was last year and that's to improve," Fields said. "There are still a lot of areas in which I need to improve like timing and making more consistent reads. I also need to get more familiar with the defenses we are going to face this season."
If Fields does continue to improve and if the Cal coach Monty Clark can get an offensive line to jell in front of him, 1998 could be a break through season for him, one in which he could put up some pretty impressive numbers. Which would be great news for the Bears, who see as one of their pillars of success for the 1998 campaign the ability to control a ballgame with the running attack.