Pretty much the only thing that kept Elijah Fields from being a star was Elijah Fields himself.
The Pitt safety/linebacker was always one of the more impressive physical specimens on the practice field -- a 6-foot-2, 225-pound athlete who could run and hit with the best of them. But he couldn't stay out of his own way.
Fields, who was a highly regarded recruit, kept getting in trouble on and off the field, leading to a suspension for the entire 2007 season. He should have been starting this season, especially after a season-ending knee injury to Andrew Taglianetti. But his various transgressions prevented him from stepping into an immediate starting role.
Once Fields got back in good graces, he had a pretty good year, which included three interceptions. Dave Wannstedt used more nickel defenses this year than in the past against the many spread offenses his team faced, and Fields became the go-to guy in those packages, often moving down to play linebacker in that alignment. Wannstedt liked what he saw from those formations and planned to use it more often this season.
But Fields apparently blew it again. The school offered no official reason for his dismissal Wednesday, other than to say that it was for disciplinary reasons. In recent weeks, Fields' Twitter page contained references and images of him and friends partying and drinking alcohol. That page has since been taken down. Surely not everything on Twitter is to be taken at face value, and it's unclear what, if any, factor that played in Fields' dismissal. Regardless, here was a guy obviously on a short leash who again was exhibiting some questionable choices.
Fields' loss hurts the Panthers' depth. But Pitt still has promising sophomore Jarred Holley at safety, as well as second-team All-Big East performer Dom DeCicco. Getting Taglianetti back and fully healthy would be a big help. Dan Mason, Max Gruder and Greg Williams will get the majority of the playing time at outside linebacker.
Fields can transfer and play right away at an FCS school if he chooses. Perhaps this dismissal will be a wake-up call and send him on the right track, because he has the tools to get a look from the NFL. It's a shame he never was able to stay on that track at Pitt.