There is no denying the physical talent of junior defensive end Devonte Fields. While off-field issues and a foot injury ultimately short-circuited his sophomore season, Fields was poised to return to the field with a flourish in 2014, healthy and focused on leading the defense for the TCU Horned Frogs. But after an altercation with an ex-girlfriend where Fields allegedly pointed a gun at her and punched her in the face, TCU could face this season without one of the elite defensive players in college football.
Fields’ athletic prowess is without question. As a freshman in 2012, he was named the AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after recording 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Even after playing in just three games last season due to a suspension for the first two games of the season and then a foot injury, Fields was named the Big 12 preseason Defensive Player of the Year last week leading up to the Big 12 Media Days. When healthy, there are few players in college football who can match Fields’ production on the field.
But it will ultimately be Fields’ decision-making off of the field that he is remembered for at TCU. In a statement, the school officially “separated” Fields from the university and promised that there could be “disciplinary action from the university above and beyond any legal consequences” stemming from this incident. TCU reiterated that the school “does not tolerate harassment or misconduct by a student,” which puts Fields in direct violation of that code.
Without Fields, Gary Patterson will try to utilize a team-pressure approach, much like they did in 2013 when Fields was sidelined. The Horned Frogs finished third in the Big 12 with 32 teams sacks despite having no player record more than Terrell Lathan‘s five during the year. Nine different players recorded multiple sacks in 2013 and eight of them return this season. It will take another cumulative effort to make up for the lost production that the team likely will not see from Fields in 2014.
If the investigation into Fields’ conduct proves these allegations to be true and he is charged, then he will have forfeited his place on the TCU roster. As the team looks to regroup without Fields once again this season, will they be able to rally and overcome his absence?