Can Mark Fields step up in 2016?


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Fields has been more focused this spring
Fields has been more focused this spring

CLEMSON – No one knows who will start opposite senior Cordrea Tankersley at the other cornerback spot when the Tigers open the season at Auburn in early September, but don’t bet against Mark Fields.

Fields came to Clemson as one of the nation’s highest-rated cornerback prospects, but played just 78 snaps while tallying five total tackles and one pass broken up. Fields did play eight snaps against Alabama in the title game, and with Clemson’s secondary in a state of flux has a chance to make his mark in 2016.

Fields was a consensus top-150 national player, and he won Fastest Man competition at Nike’s The Opening. He was listed as the nation’s No. 113 player and No. 10 defensive back in the nation and No. 5 player in North Carolina by Rivals.com, and he was the No. 163 player and No. 15 defensive back in the nation and No. 6 player in North Carolina by ESPN following a senior season in which he had 45 tackles, two interceptions and a recovered fumble.

Tankersley told the media following Monday’s practice that he wants to see Fields and all of the younger players succeed and that he can’t carry them on his back.

“I wouldn't necessarily say it's on me. They are grown men and they have to carry their own weight,” Tankersley said. “But yeah, it's my job to lift them up and keep encouraging them. But the coaches also have to have the initiative to pick them up and lead them in the right direction.”

With that in mind, Tankersley said it’s time for Fields to be the player they all know he can be.

“It's time for him to grow up. He still has a lot to learn. He is going to be a really good player if he will just get his head on straight and keeps going out there and competing,” Tankersley said. “One thing that I do like about him is that he does have that competitive edge. I think it's just time for him to grow up even more. He is taking film more serious and getting more dialed in and trying to not get distracted. It's not just being the next man up but going out there and earning his job.”

With a little hard work and extra film preparation, Fields can be special and be the kind of player the Tigers need for him to be.

“I just feel like he wasn't ready yet. He had time he needed to grow up. He has the mindset and he has the body to do it, but I think he needed to learn to not carry stuff from off the field onto the field,” Tankersley said. “I think I can tell him what I've been through - learn the system and go out there and try to be best player he can be. He doesn't need to be Mackensie. He just needs to be Mark Fields. Not saying that Mackensie is a bad player to look up to, but he needs to just go out there and be his own man. He has all the qualities - he has the quickness and he has the speed to go out there and be the best corner. He has it, he just has to go out there and show it and put in the extra work and film study.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said he's seen a more serious side to Fields this spring.

“He's more serious. He was very immature and playful when he got here last year,” Swinney said. “Kind of Johnny Joe Cool. He had to figure out that you've got to work and that you're not entitled to anything. He's just made a decision that he wants to be a great player and I think he's bought into to what he's got to do to make that happen. He's just more serious and more focused and has a much better understanding of what it's going to take. I'm really pleased with Mark I think he can be a really good player. He has a chance to be a really, really good player. Hopefully, he'll stay the course, but so far so good.”

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