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Shay Fields Must Emerge As A Bigger Target Next Season

A breakout sophomore season for the wide receiver is a key for the Buffs success in 2015.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Shay Fields had some amazing moments on the field last season for the Colorado Buffaloes. The standout wide receiver started all but two games and set Colorado's record for receptions in a season by a freshman player with 50. He was also second on the team with 486 yards and five touchdowns, behind CU's all-time leading receiver Nelson Spruce. As Fields makes the transition into his sophomore season, he sees more development within himself. "I've been paying attention to the little things along with watching my techniques to become a better route runner," Fields said. "I've also been working harder every day and right now focusing on my strength training." Becoming bigger, faster and stronger are some of the goals Fields has set for himself this off season.

That appears to be the same regiment being applied by Coach MacIntyre and his staff. Coach Dave Forman has been working with the Buffs to help their performance. The advanced training has left a positive impression on several players and they're starting to notice a difference in the conditioning. Fields is grateful for the guidance of CU's coaching staff. "Coach Mac is on us more this season and he knows we can win close games."

The players seem to be putting trust behind MacIntyre's emphasis on hard work and dedication. Fields hopes to play a bigger role and contribute more frequently this season. With Spruce entering his senior season, the assumption is that he will be quarterback Sefo Liufau's primary target. Both players had a record-breaking year in 2014 and will be looking to capitalize on another season together. Fields was targeted often and was usually the first or second option. With his first season behind him, Fields must show improvements on the field as a go-to target for Liufau and start preparing taking steps towards being "the guy" for the 2016 season. At that point, it's expected Fields is the "next man up" as the primary receiver for Liufau's senior season and the bridge to progress starts now.

Part of that progression for Fields has been the process of gaining maturity in life. The sophomore receiver believes he's currently turning a corner and that he's getting the attention of the Buffs' coaching staff. "I've noticed that I've matured more from last year. Coach Mac pulled me aside and we've talked to me about how he's noticed. He's always tried to guide me to do better."

It's not just Fields, but the entire program that's maturing after being the youngest team in major conference FBS last season. The advantage of starting on the field early for MacIntyre has been a major step to his abundant growth. The four-star recruit made an immediate impact when he came to Boulder, but his growth started years prior to becoming a Buff.

In high school, Fields shattered multiple school receiving records at St. John Bosco HS (Bellflower, CA) and it was there he was converted from a quarterback to a wide receiver. The change was a minor adjustment, but something that would change the course of his college recruiting. "It wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I started playing quarterback in Pop Warner and in the Snoop League (California youth football). It taught me how to be a receiver."

Football has been in Shay's blood from an early age and he's developed his game through studying his every move on the field. Being involved in the Snoop League meant having Calvin Broadus, better known as the rapper and entertainer Snoop Dogg, as a coach and mentor. Fields took Broadus' coaching to heart from an early age. "He showed me some ways to improve my game. When you see him on stage, he's Snoop Dogg the rapper. But when it comes to football, he takes it very seriously and is a great coach."

Fields was elated with his decision to come to CU, but he admitted it was hard not to stay in California, especially after his original commitment to the USC Trojans right out of high school. Former USC Coach Ed Orgeron recruited Fields and was let go by the Trojans after Steve Sarkisian took over in 2014. At that point, the contact between USC and Fields became distant. "I didn't feel that Coach Sarkisian was reaching out as much-- I would go weeks without any contact and I felt the right thing to do was leave."

Before landing on CU, Fields reached out to now Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Paul Richardson for advice. The two receivers shared notes and came to a simple conclusion that was shared by Richardson; that Fields would have the opportunity to play early and could contribute without sitting behind upperclassmen.

From that conversation, Coach Mac and Shay would have their first introduction. It wasn't long before developing a bond with each other that Fields found out the importance of having a good coach in his corner.

He happened to be bored one January afternoon and decided to take to Twitter for entertainment. The only problem was MacIntye was on Twitter as well and would have the last laugh.

Coach Mac's response was classic.

Oh the burn.... the burn..... Fields was doing conditioning the following day and ran into Coach Mac. Naturally, he tried to avoid eye contact with Mac, but the two looked at each other and both burst into laughter immediately. It's rare to have a coach that is active on social media like MacIntyre is and the example has set a good precedent with his players. Fields and the rest of the Buffs have become mindful of what they're posing at all times. "You have to keep it in the back of your mind that Mac may or may not see your post and respond."

The consensus that Coach Mac is a complete mentor is an understatement. He understands that establishing a solid football program starts by being a family.

The next four months going into the summer will test the Buffaloes determination. The players have started to come together to trust each other more throughout the spring. It's key to have rare talented players like Fields on the roster for the Buffs. His leadership will start to show this season and by helping his teammates grow together, Fields will gain trust all the way around. Time is essential for CU to take the next step towards the future of the program. If everything aligns just right for Fields and the rest of the Buffs, 2015 will be a preview of things to come in Boulder.