By Paul M. Banks
One of the biggest questions surrounding Northwestern football entering this season waswho would step in for the departed seniors at tailback? Gone are Omar Conteh and Tyrell Sutton, the latter of which is now with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. A man with a similar build to Sutton, freshman Arby Fields, inherited his jersey number. But head Coach Pat Fitzgerald says the similarities end there.
“No, no. Those guys are two totally different guys that are just wearing the same jersey number. Feel free to make Arby feel upset and call him Tyrell Sutton. I’d appreciate it if all of you did that repeatedly.”
Sutton is among the top three in school history for pretty much every major rushing record, and would likely have grabbed numebr one in all of them had he stayed healthy. I asked Arby about how he ended up with Sutton’s number and if he looked up to him.
“It was kind of by coincidence, when I got here I took it as a compliment when the coaches told me I was getting the number handed down to me, a guy who’s accomplished so much here. It shows what they think I can do,” Fields responded. He’s gotten the bulk of the carries this year, and he’s the leader in rushing touchdowns on the season too. The projected starter, senior Steph Simmons, has been fighting injuries all year long. So Fitz has had to “be thinking Arby’s” when it comes to the ground game.
“I’ve had a lot of confidence with him since day one, he’s becoming more confident too. I thought he played a pretty physical football game, protected pretty well and I thought he executed what we’re asking him to do,” Fitzgerald said about Arby Fields.
As a freshman, Fields still has plenty to learn as he grows into his starting role. “Obviously, I need to work on ball security,” he said.
His fumbling has been a problem, but his game has strengths too. “Being able to do so many things as far what Coach Fitz and Coach McCall are asking me to do, some times I’m in the backfield, sometimes I’m Split out doing wideout stuff,” Fields stated. Perhaps Arby Fields will become the next Rocky Harvey, a star Big Ten running back with a really funny name. But he’ll need his offensive line to play MUCH BETTER.
The unit has been the source of ridicule from Head Coach Fitzgerald, and he’s publicly voiced that criticism profanely. They got beat up bad again by the Miami of Ohio defensive front today, quite possibly one of the worst teams in all the FBS. Fields’ stats are only mediocre, but he’d have some really impressive numbers if the line could do anything at all.