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Lumberjacks must start fresh again

Last Modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 12:02 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

For one day last week, it appeared Stephen F. Austin had the type of player that could reasonably raise its expectations for this season.

Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year Devonte Fields, who is currently “separated” from the team at TCU and actually banned from campus as the result of an investigation alleging that he punched an ex-girlfriend and threatened her with a gun, announced he was transferring to SFA last Wednesday.

On Thursday, SFA confirmed that Fields would be coming and eligible to play.

But on Friday, TCU pulled a Lee Corso and essentially said “Not so fast, my friend.”

TCU deemed Fields’ alleged infraction — he has not yet been formally charged with a crime — a violation of the school’s honor code. That decision rendered him unable to apply for the transfer that would have landed him at SFA.

Thus, the Lumberjacks are back where they thought they would be under first-year coach Clint Conque, who hopped over from Central Arkansas this offseason: at the start of a rebuilding project.

The wheels fell off of the Lumberjacks’ high-flying attack last season as SFA surrendered an astounding 49.3 points and 528 yards per game.

SFA hurt itself as much as it was hurt by others, averaging a league-high 77 penalty yards a game while committing a league-high 34 turnovers.

“Moving forward we inherit a little bit of a wounded program, and everybody here recognizes that. That’s part of the challenge,” Conque said. “These young men have bought into the cultural changes we have put in place, the expectation level of how we want to go about ourselves and do business and the processes. It is a process, and we have to respect each phase and each part of that process.”

SFA’s early-season schedule is friendly for a team needing a dose of confidence after last season.

After playing up at Kansas State in Week 1, the Lumberjacks settle in for four straight home games.

The conference opener against UCA will be an emotionally charged test, but comes off a bye week and three winnable games against Incarnate Word, Texas A&M-Commerce and Weber State.

The Incarnate Word game will not count in the conference standings for either team, but does give the Lumberjacks games against all three Southland newcomers this season.

HICKEY’S PICK: 6-6, 3-5 in Southland

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