The search for a likely instant contributor in the linebacker room ended unsuccessfully for the Texas Longhorns on Monday as Arizona grad transfer Tony Fields II announced his commitment to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Minnesota Gophers were a finalist as well.
A three-year starter who instantly became and remained a force for the Wildcats defense, Fields totaled 287 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks for Arizona, so when he entered his name into the transfer portal in mid-July it’s unsurprising that Texas wasted no time jumping into the mix with an offer.
“When you get that scholarship offer, you can’t turn that down,” Fields recently told 247Sports’ Chris Hummer of the Longhorns. “You have to at least weigh out your options. I love that coaching staff. I love Coach (Tom) Herman and everything talking to them. I have to just keep my relationship with them until I can decide.”
Interest in the program was especially apparent last week, as he took a self-guided tour of the Forty Acres on Wednesday, despite the reality that recruits can’t meet with the coaching staff right now. And it appeared as if the trip to Austin only helped the Horns chances in this race entering the weekend ahead of Fields’ originally-planned commitment on Monday, as Texas held each of his Crystal Ball picks.
But on Monday, things took a surprise turn for the worst; well, that is unless you’re West Virginia. As Fields postponed his decision to Tuesday, Texas sank from the team to beat to the team on the outside looking in, and now, rather than Fields suiting up for Texas and competing with DeMarvion Overshown for the Will linebacker role, he’ll suit up against Texas.
The potential positional battle with Overshown, a converted safety, may have been the factor that worked against Texas. Albeit inexperienced in comparison to Fields, Overshown’s defensive back background and hard-hitting nature make him a fairly ideal option at Will linebacker, so even had Fields picked Texas, it would have been difficult to keep Overshown off the field.
“I’ve never been scared to compete, but I don’t have time to compete in my career right now,” Fields told Hummer. “It’s time to go. It’s time to go in and have an All-American season, and that’s what I’m ready to do.”
That said, he Mountaineers don’t necessarily provide an easier avenue to playing time. Redshirt senior Dylan Tonkery could compete at Will linebacker, but he also has experience playing West Virginia’s rush linebacker position and at the Mike, the two roles that he played in 2019. Junior Josh Chandler-Semedo was the primary starter at Will linebacker last season, finishing as the team’s second-leading tackler following nine starters, seven at Will.
As for Texas, Overshown will remain the primary option to capture the starting Will role, where David Gbenda and Marcus Tillman Jr. will need to adjust quickly given the Longhorns’ lack of depth in the linebacker room.