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By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Frankfort three-sport standout E.J. Fields thought he might have a chance to play at Kentucky last year because of UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lack of returning playmakers at receiver. However, he had two things against him Ã¢â‚¬â€ he was making the switch from high school quarterback to receiver and he had a pulled hamstring muscle.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not getting to play was kind of hard at first, but the overall year helped me. I had started on my high school team since I was a freshman. I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t used to practicing and not playing, so that took some adjustment,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fields said.Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a big transition watching instead of playing. But coming into a new situation and new position at receiver, it helps to have that extra year of experience to really learn what college football is all about.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Fields says because he was hurt when preseason practice opened and never had a chance to really show what he could do, it was not hard to accept being redshirted even as he watched other freshmen get to play.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I knew I might be redshirted, but you always want to think you can come in and play. I think every player is that way. Everybody wants to be in the rotation and play. But when I look back on it, it helped me, especially with giving me a chance to improve my size and speed,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fields said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The move to receiver was definitely harder than I thought. There is a lot more to playing receiver than I thought there was. But with me playing quarterback and knowing the routes and stuff, it did at least make it a little easier to learn all I had to know.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He could only watch as freshman Eric Adeyemi, Gene McCaskill, Aaron Boyd and Matt Roark all were in and out of the playing rotation as UK searched for a playmaker to go with Randall Cobb, another true freshman.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was hard, especially when they struggled, but it made it all worthwhile knowing I would have another year to play and learn,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fields said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I had to work on my quickness Ã¢â‚¬â€ and catching is something everybody can always do better. But definitely my quickness is what really has to get better because everybody is so fast and strong here. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one thing I learned by watching these other guys try to play as freshmen.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Fields enjoyed getting to dress and be on the sideline in KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first home game. After that, he watched from the Commonwealth Stadium stands with other redshirt players.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You get used to it and it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that bad, except for the real cold games,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fields said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Since we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t travel to road games, that was like a day off. I would go home (to Frankfort) or just hang out with friends. Going to the bowl game was a good experience. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m glad I got to do that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Fields isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worried about being overwhelmed this season even though other receivers in his class struggled to be consistent playmakers.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is the right spot and I feel like I am a receiver. With me playing defense in high school, I could handle the blocking and the contact you have to take out there in the SEC,Ã¢â‚¬Â Fields said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think I can help next year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My big goal is to help the team all I can. That is my biggest goal right now. We have a good class of freshmen and our future is pretty bright. We all get along well and have a great chemistry in our class, which is important.Ã¢â‚¬Â