Last fall, Shay Fields was well on his way to producing one of the best seasons by a receiver in Colorado history.

An ankle injury derailed his season, though, and caused a frustrating final six weeks.

Throughout the offseason, the junior has had no shortage of reasons to be motivated, as he seeks to not only lead CU's receiving corps, but to help the Buffs break their 10-year string of losing seasons.

"We're really using that to motivate us, and just the past seasons that we've had," Fields said. "With the close games, we felt we weren't strong enough and physically or mentally ready in some games. We're trying to change that in the offseason right now."

Of course, for CU (4-9 last season) to finally win, it's going to take dozens of players stepping up their game, but Fields is doing his part.

Now healthy, he wants to be more productive as an individual, he wants to be leader among a talented group of receivers, and he wants to be the guy CU quarterbacks know they can trust in any situation.

"There were some things I took from coach (Darrin Chiaverini), some things I tried to incorporate from (former CU receivers coach Troy) Walters, and then just going home and working on my craft, which was big for me," Fields said.

As a true freshman in 2014, Fields caught 50 passes for 486 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, he caught 42 passes for 598 yards and four more scores (he had just 10 catches for 94 yards after his injury).


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Playing a supporting to role to Nelson Spruce the last two years, Fields is one of several receivers hoping to take the lead role now that Spruce is in the NFL.

"I think Shay has tons of ability," said Chiaverini, a former CU receiver and the Buffs' first-year receivers coach. "He has to learn how to consistently bring that to the practice field. I think he sometimes takes it for granted, but he has the ability to be a big-time Pac-12 receiver. He has to learn it's the little things that make you great."

Fields is trying to take that to heart and make sure he's physically ready to be at his best. After playing last year in the 177-180-pound range, Fields is up to 187 pounds and hopes to play at around 185 this season.

"It allows me to get more physical since I'm much bigger now," he said. "It gives me that upper edge. I feel like that'll help me do what I need to do, especially on the jump ball."

Fields said he will also do a lot of speed training over the summer and is working on perfecting his routes.

Considering the talent CU has compiled at receiver, there may not be any one player that matches the numbers Spruce produced (school-record 106 catches in 2014 and 89 more last year), but Fields knows he can be counted on to catch more passes than he's had in the past.

"If the team needs me to catch more balls than I did last year, then so be it and I'll be ready," he said. "I feel I could have done much more (the past two seasons), but I just have to worry about the future, and I feel like I can do much more with the time that I have."

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.