Mark Fields was in the midst of a productive junior season in 2017 when the wheels came off on Oct. 13. The Clemson cornerback injured his foot in the Tigers’ loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome that night and missed the last eight games of the season.
Following the season, Fields was faced with the decision of whether to test the NFL waters or return for his senior season. Ultimately, the injury played a key role in his choice to come back for one final campaign at Clemson.
“I had got hurt the seventh game of the season when we played Syracuse, and I just felt like I had some unfinished business to attend to,” Fields said. “So, I just wanted to come back and put it all together.”
Fields indeed looks ready to put it all together as a senior, based on what head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables have seen in fall camp.
Hampered by injuries and lack of focus at times in his first three years, the former highly touted recruit is now healthy again and at his best entering the 2018 season.
“We’ve got the best version of Mark Fields that we’ve had,” Venables said. “He’s been really good — his maturity and his attentiveness and just executing and being consistent.”
Fields agreed with Venables’ assessment, saying his increased attention to detail has made a big difference.
“Absolutely, man,” Fields said when asked if he is at the top of his game. “Like I said, just continue to work on the little things, just continue to work on fundamentals. That’s about it, and staying locked in.”
Before being sidelined with the foot injury last season, Fields recorded 20 tackles and two pass breakups through the first six games of the year. In his first three seasons at Clemson, Fields has played in 36 games (five starts) while tallying 36 tackles, five tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and an interception, which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown against Boston College in 2016.
Not only is Fields more determined than before, but fellow Clemson cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and A.J. Terrell are pushing him to be the best he can be as well. All three players are expected to see starter snaps in 2018.
“We’re just competing, getting better man,” Fields said. “Like they say, we’re short [on depth] at corner, so really every day is a grind just getting ready for the season. So really what we’re going through out here right now is just getting us prepared to have a real great season and we’re going to put on a good show.”
After foregoing the NFL draft for another year, Fields feels ready to take advantage of his last year in a Tiger uniform and realize his full potential in 2018.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” he said. “Everything is going to work out like it’s supposed to.”