After missing much of the past two games against SMU and Oklahoma with a foot injury, TCU defensive end Devonte Fields will sit out the rest of the season recovering from a foot fracture.
TCU coach Gary Patterson confirmed the news on Wednesday after previously refusing to comment on it. Fields will have surgery to repair the injury, which he sustained in a Week 3 loss to Texas Tech. By not playing the rest of the season, he'll be eligible for a medical redshirt.
“He was great with it,” Patterson said, via Stefan Stevenson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s hard for him because he’s frustrated because he hasn’t played to the level he can because of his foot and everything else going on. I think it’s a win-win situation for us. It gives him three years left to play and allows him to get older and stronger and get that foot fixed right.”
Patterson's comments speak to the dual nature of Fields' injury.
On one hand, it's a tough loss. Fields was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and earned All-American honors. He was a disruptive force in the backfield with with 18.5 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks. Both of those numbers led the team in 2012.
He's a gifted athlete. Had he been healthy, Fields could have had another big year for the Frogs defense.
But Fields never got off to the start he wanted this year, beginning with a two-game suspension to open the year. Patterson sat Fields in the season-opener against LSU and played him sparingly against Southeastern Louisiana and Texas Tech.
Combine the suspension with the injured foot and it's almost like Fields has been out for the year anyway. He finishes the season with four tackles, two of which are for a loss.
Since TCU has essentially been playing without Fields, "replacing" him isn't as big a task as it would normally be. Senior Jon Koontz already has two tackles for loss and a sack on the season and has appeared in 31 career games.
The right side of the defensive line, where Fields normally starts, has been more of a revolving door. Junior Matt Anderson started the first two games of the season and has 11 tackles, but sophomore Terrell Lathan, a defensive tackle, started against OU.
Is losing Devonte Fields a big deal for TCU?
TCU's defense has actually done a good job of getting into the backfield this season, even without Fields. The Frogs rank eighth nationally in tackles for loss with 8.8 a game and are tied for fourth in sacks per game with 3.6.
Breaking down those numbers further, linebacker Marcus Mallett is tied for first on the team with Lathan in TFL with five and Chris Hackett has come up from the safety spot more than a few times to blitz.
TCU is still a good defense without Fields. It's just been more of a team effort getting into the backfield.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All stats via the NCAA.