The annual July rite of passage growing up was to pick up a copy of EA’s NCAA Football franchise on the first Tuesday in July and get to playing as the Miami Hurricanes. Typically, I would knock out one season with The U before turning over to a lowly program like Idaho, Navy in 2002 or UCF in 2001. Long before the demise of Miami football, and the rise of Navy and UCF. My brother and I would never even call it by name, just “wanna play?” and you knew exactly what the other guy meant.
Over the years I was always a ‘pass first’ play caller and adopted the inside zone read in the games all the way back with Marcus Vick was still at Virginia Tech. It worked to perfection even back in the early games and obviously by NCAA 14 the “read option” was a staple play of the franchise. I still have my SEGA and Bill Walsh College Football, as well as my PS3 and NCAA ‘14 (played it less than 48 hours ago). I also still have an NES and Tecmo Super bowl and a PS4 and Madden ‘20. You could say I’m a nerd.
Truth be told, the two best of any of those consoles and their games is Tecmo Super Bowl and NCAA ‘14. One of the fun parts of the NCAA Football franchise is of course, recruiting. With every season as your seniors and star players leave for the NFL, you get new impact players. Those players are supposed to make, “Big time plays in big games,” as Santana Moss once so aptly said.
If the NCAA series was still going, here are the three impact players for ‘21.
Gregory Rousseau is everything an NCAA franchise defender needs to be a 99 overall rating. He’s big at six-foot-six, 255 pounds. He had a dominating 2019 season with huge numbers as he logged 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. Rousseau has the speed, first-step quickness, and finishing ability (54 tackles, too) to be not only an impact player but a 99 overall for Miami.
Rousseau along with fellow defensive end Quincy Roche, are considered the best defensive end one-two punch in college football. Rousseau is less than 12 months from a major NFL contract and a 1st round draft selection. He’s already being compared to former Hurricane Calais Campbell who has done fairly well for himself in the league.
Rousseau needs to follow up his redshirt freshman season with a big time sophomore campaign to be a day 1 NFL Draft selection but to be a 99 overall and impact player he’s already done what’s needed. And it doesn’t hurt that the game puts a premium (Jadeveon Clowney was a 99) on massive players with speed that can rush the quarterback.
NCAA Rating: 99
I’m not sure if you can argue with a more NCAA ‘14 ready player than D’Eriq King. If the ‘14 game was built around mobile QB’s, read option plays, Air Raid passing concepts, and scrambling in space then just imagine the ‘21 version. After scoring 50, yes 50 touchdowns in 2018, King played in four games of 2019 before deciding to redshirt and hit the restart button (we’ve all done it once in video games) on his senior season.
While King would be shorter than the typical quarterback, his ability to throw the deep ball and scramble would make him easily a 95 overall in the game (out of 100 possible points). Imagine King’s accuracy rating being high but not near 99, but his awareness, break tackles, etc would have to be through the roof for a QB who averaged 6.1 yards per carry including sack yardage, and 8.6 yards per attempt is good but not great.
NCAA Rating: 96
The tight end position is not exactly at a premium in the NCAA franchise quite like QB’s and DE’s. Brevin Jordan, however, has to be the highest rated tight end in NCAA ‘21 if it existed. Jordan has the size, speed, hands, and blocking ability to be an impact player that users could move all over the field. Rhett Lashlee is going to have a field day figuring how to get Jordan lined up in mismatches, while running an up tempo offense.
By ‘21 you’d hope the NCAA franchise could find a way to maximize the versatility of Jordan. The boost for Jordan would be averaging 14.1 yards per catch as a six-foot-three, 235 pound tight end. The negatives holding him back from a 99 overall would be his lack of getting into the end zone, he only caught two touchdowns in ‘19, and his injury rating would have to be low considering he hasn’t finished a season without winding up on the IR.
NCAA Rating: 95
Quincy Roche is going to make my honorable mention list. It’s not like the NCAA series hasn’t had impact punters, or two defensive ends on the same roster. They certainly have. Sadly I don’t think offensive linemen ever got the love they deserved in the NCAA franchise. When I was growing up, John Madden helped make the position aspirational. To be a “big ugly” (the damn cliches!) was something to be proud of. As an offensive lineman I wanted to be Nate Newton or Keith Sims. And the features on Orlando Pace and pancake blocks on College GameDay were always phenomenal.
Back to Roche... the undersized defensive end from Temple wouldn’t crack my top 3 impact players, but he would have a high rating in the NCAA franchise. Roche would be one of those career players the game seemed to love, and he had a big 2019 statistically. The six-foot-four, 235 pound Roche is undersized for the ACC and that could’ve hurt his rating. However, his 39.5 career tackles for loss and 26 career sacks would be enough to place him in the 90’s.
NCAA Rating: 92