Tariq Castro-Fields’ first wish for the 2021 college football season understandably is to stay healthy.
Castro-Fields was hampered the last two years by two undisclosed injuries. He considered opting for the NFL before he decided to return to complete unfinished business.
Now a Penn State senior, he begins this season with great anticipation and his health intact.
“It’s gonna mean the world,” Castro-Fields said, referring to the opener Saturday at noon at Wisconsin (TV-FOX, WEEU-AM/830). “I love my teammates. I love football. This university has meant a lot to me. I graduated, so I just feel like I owe it a lot.
“I can’t wait to go out there and ball and just show everything I’ve been working on in the summer.”
Castro-Fields has the most experience among perhaps the deepest group of cornerbacks in Penn State history.
“He had a tremendous camp,” said Terry Smith, the associate head coach and cornerbacks coach. “He’s a long, big, fast corner. More importantly, he brings the experience factor. He understands our defense.
“He’s a great communicator. He’s super smart. He mentors and teachers our younger guys on the back end. He’s an invaluable member of our team.”
The 6-0, 194-pound Castro-Fields, who’s from Upper Marlboro, Md., suffered what is believed to be a shoulder injury in October 2019 after he played at an All-Big Ten level in the first half of that season.
He was expected to be the Nittany Lions’ lockdown cornerback last year, but he was injured in a 35-19 loss to Maryland in the third game. He never played again in 2020.
Now that he’s regained his health, he’s expected to be one of the anchors in a talented Penn State secondary.
Joey Porter Jr. will start with Castro-Fields at cornerback, and Jaquan Brisker and Ji’Ayir Brown will start at safety. Daequan Hardy will play the nickel, or “Star” position.
The 6-2, 192-pound Porter, a sophomore, is an intriguing prospect who started in every game last season and broke up four passes.
“The biggest thing he has going for him is that he has 35-inch arms,” Smith said. “I think the only other guy in the program who was like that was (former defensive end) Odafe Oweh. His length is unparalleled.
“For a guy that’s over 6-2, he has great speed. He’s a low 4.4 guy (in the 40-yard dash). When you combine that with the ability to change directions, it gives him an opportunity to be a unique individual on the back end.”
Marquis Wilson, who also will play receiver, South Carolina transfer Johnny Dixon, Florida State transfer A.J. Lytton and freshman Kalen King will see time at corner.
“We have a ton of guys,” Smith said. “Competition keeps guys playing harder. We’ll rotate a little bit. We’re excited where we are.”
It’s been 10 months since Castro-Fields played in a game and 21 months since he played in front of a large crowd, because of the pandemic.
“I’m just excited to play in front of fans again,” he said. “I know it’s gonna be a crazy atmosphere, being it’s their first game back with full capacity. It’s definitely a challenge for us, so I’m excited.”
Source: Berkshire mont