DALLAS -- Media Days are always a time for head coaches to be optimistic about their teams. Their records for the season are all even at 0-0, and there's supposedly nothing but good days ahead. Terms like "great summer" and "awesome in the weight room" are thrown around ad nauseam.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson used a few of those phrases on Monday, but the straight shooter was surprisingly candid, saying that even he doesn't know what to expect this season from star defensive end Devonte Fields, who was the media's preaseason pick for 2014 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
"I was kind of surprised Devonte Fields was (the pick) because he hadn't played a year ago," Patterson said. "I haven't watched him since you watched him."
Fields won the league's defensive player of the year award as a freshman when he racked up 10 sacks but took a medical redshirt in 2013 after suffering a foot injury. Off-the-field issues set him back even further in the eyes of the program.
Still, he's considered by some to be the Horned Frogs' top NFL draft prospect and many are excited to see what he can do if he's 100 percent healthy this year. Patterson has no clue how Fields will respond to snaps in a game this season and spent far more time talking about his defense's depth on Monday than he did the possibility of adding a fearsome pass rusher back to the mix.
"We were still one of the top two defenses over two years without him. If he's able to play and do the things he needs to do, then obviously I think we'll have a chance to be better," Patterson said. "I'm excited because what people probably don't understand (is that TCU DT) Terrell Lathan was as good a player as (Fields) was when was as a freshman. He comes back, he's 6-foot-5, weighs 290 pounds. People (are) talking about (DT) Chucky Hunter, and Davion Pierson was also a very good defensive tackle. I think we're going to have a lot more depth."
The Horned Frogs' record has slipped as they made the transition to the Big 12 the past two years, but Patterson's defense has remained one of the best in the league. So, one can understand why he's a little skeptical about a player who hasn't played meaningful football in nearly two years having a big impact on his bottom line.
Not expecting much from a preseason defensive player of the year? Well, that is just a sign of the times for a young TCU squad, and probably a good one for the team's fortunes in the Big 12 in 2014.