To play or not to play.
That is the predicament TCU coach Gary Patterson finds himself in when it comes to the status of defensive end Devonte Fields.
The sophomore sat out Week 1 against LSU as part of a two-game suspension handed down by Patterson. But will Fields play Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana? It is, after all, the second game of the year.
Patterson indicated earlier this week that the ongoing suspension is focused more on how the punishment is served and less on when it's served.
“He served 135 hours of community service,” Patterson said of Fields, via Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. Just like all of our kids, he went through all the random drug testing and all the things they go through."
The other area to consider is that TCU has a short week leading up to a Thursday night road game against Texas Tech in Week 3. It's a far more important game for the Horned Frogs, and Patterson doesn't necessarily want Fields—arguably the team's best defensive player—starting the season cold against the Red Raiders.
Patterson: Fields will serve a 2-game suspension. But not necessarily first two games.— Stefan Stevenson (@FollowtheFrogs) September 3, 2013
Patterson is concerned about Fields getting hurt if he comes back cold against #TexasTech— Stefan Stevenson (@FollowtheFrogs) September 3, 2013
So what does Patterson do?
First of all, all arguments could be moot points if TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini rules that Fields won't play against SE Louisiana. For what it's worth, the university decided last week that Fields would be allowed to play against LSU.
Patterson said school (campus life org.) had approved Devonte Fields playing vs. LSU.— Stefan Stevenson (@FollowtheFrogs) September 3, 2013
“If he can play, he’ll play, if can’t play, he won’t play,” Patterson said of Fields. “He’s not playing in this ballgame until that conversation occurs."
Assuming Fields gets the thumbs up from the university, Patterson's decision comes down to a list of pros and cons.
He's on point to be worried about starting Fields cold against Texas Tech, if for no other reason than sometimes players can get off to a slow start. Given the way the Red Raiders played against SMU, not to mention the noticeable absence of TCU's pass rush against LSU, Fields will need to be on top of his game next Thursday.
How should Devonte Fields serve out his suspension?
But, if Patterson allows Fields to play in the next two games in their entirety, the second part of his suspension will still loom one month into the season. This is likely something Patterson doesn't want to have hanging around longer than necessary.
If missing two games is simply part of a larger punishment, and Fields has done what Patterson has asked him to do in other areas, then Fields may see a half-game suspension against both SE Louisiana and Texas Tech. This way, he's able to see some game action against the Lions in preparation for Texas Tech while continuing to serve out his punishment.
The Horned Frogs are going to need Fields against the Red Raiders. Here's predicting Patterson will shift some things around to make it happen.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.