NCAA President Mark Emmert made headlines recently, when he announced that the association is exploring potential effects surrounding usage of student-athletes likenesses.
“We’re at a place right now where I strongly believe that we need to be more pro-active in looking at and exploring what could or couldn’t occur,” (regarding athletes’ names, images and likenesses), Emmert said to a group of sports editors 10 days before announcing a new committee tasked with studying issues surrounding the topic.
That announcement sent video game fans (like myself) into a frenzy, as it opens up the door for game-maker EA Sports to potentially re-launch the wildly popular NCAA Football franchise, which last produced an edition for the 2013 season.
Even ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit made it clear that he would be in favor.
So @OSU_AD if all goes well is there a chance we get our NCAA Football video game back?!? Just asking for a few 100k friends that have missed the game desperately for 5 years—including former and current players. Haha!! Be a hero! https://t.co/TE988flpax— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) May 14, 2019
This got me thinking about the five seasons worth of players who never had the opportunity to see themselves or more importantly, play the video game, using their likeness to score a touchdown, make a tackle, or take their team to play in the College Football Playoff (which we know is the only way a G5 team would have a legitimate shot).
With that in mind, I came up with an All-Conference C-USA team of players who never appeared in the game.
The list is completely subjective, however, I came up with the following stipulations:
- A player isn’t eligible if he appeared in the game. While this seems obvious, certain standouts like Brandon Doughty or Kevin Byard, who had their best years after the game was discontinued, aren’t eligible because both appeared in the 2014 version (for the 2013 season).
- I gave preference to players who achieved a level of success in three seasons opposed to four. With C-USA being only 25 years old (24 for football), the league record book is littered with players who may not have been standouts, but saw significant playing time over four seasons and racked up the numbers.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s get to the list.
Quarterback: Brent Stockstill (MTSU)
Others considered: Chase Litton, Mason Fine and Alex McGough.
While Litton was an excellent player from day one at Marshall, I went with Stockstill, because of his place in the C-USA record books and the dynamic he brought as a runner, which as any gamer knows, is crucial to converting those pesky fourth and short situations inside of your own 35-yard-line.
He’s fifth all-time in passing yards, third in completions and passing touchdowns, and led the Blue Raiders to unprecedented levels of success in his time as their quarterback.
Running Back: Devin Singletary (FAU)
Others considered: Ito Smith, Ray Lawry, Alex Gardner
This was a tough call.
Ito Smith and Alex Gardner have the type of versatility that would allow the RB screen to actually be a good play-call for once in the game.
But, I went with “Motor,” because I can control the clock and he has the type of consistency that allows me to quickly take my team on Dynasty Mode to a NY6 bowl game.
His 66 career rushing touchdowns give me the confidence that, in those short-yardage or goal-line situations, I’m going to convert or walk away with six points.
In real life, I have more than the utmost respect for the fullback position.
However, this is a video game.
There’s a fair chance, I’ll be using the RB2 formation and getting the backup running back a few carries from that spot.
Wide Receivers: Richie James (MTSU), Ty Lee (MTSU), Jon Duhart (ODU) Thomas Owens (FIU)
Others considered: Michael Thomas, Carlos Henderson
While I don’t necessarily have a WR1 in terms of size, I’ve got great route runners in James and Lee, plus, my QB has a great rapport with those two.
Jon Duhart will be my sizable target working out of the slot and the dependable Thomas Owens is my fourth wideout, who will sneak-up on opponents when I’m running four-receiver sets.
The MTSU duo combined for 456 receptions and were teammates for two seasons, while Duhart paired with Travis Fulgham at Old Dominion to give defensive backs fits.
Owens was a model of consistency in Miami, racking up 158 receptions for 2,177 yards and 21 scores.
Tight End: Harrison Bryant (FAU)
To be completely transparent, I wanted former FIU tight end Jonnu Smith.
His 4.6 40-time would give me a dynamic weapon and create mismatches on linebackers.
However, he appeared in the 2014 version of the game, so instead, I’ll head 45 minutes north on I-95 to Boca and pickup Harrison Bryant.
While he may not be the vertical threat that Smith is, if it’s 3rd and 6, opponents better not blitz and forget about the tight end.
Bryant has 83 receptions for 1,133 yards in three seasons as an Owl and returns in 2019, looking to add to those numbers.
Offensive Line: Will Hernandez (UTEP), Nate Davis (Charlotte), Jordan Budwig (FIU), O’Shea Dugas (La Tech), Levi Brown (Marshall)
Offensive linemen always get overlooked.
The quickest way to build a dynasty in NCAA is to make sure your O-Line is secure.
How am I going to run the RPO on third and short against a P5 team, on the road, looking to score the upset, if both the R and P are blown-up immediately?
Additionally, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve got five guards on the offensive line.
It’s a video game.
I’ll move Budwig to center, while Hernandez and Davis will play tackle and we’ll develop them in the off-season.
They’re also the latest C-USA offensive line NFL draft selections, going in the 2017 and 2018 drafts, respectively.
Budwig, when healthy, was one of the league’s top guards during his six years in Miami.
Dugas and Brown were models of consistency and excelled for winning programs in Tech and Marshall.
Defensive Line: Jaylon Ferguson (La Tech), Ryan Bee (Marshall), Oshane Ximines (ODU), Marcus Davenport (UTSA)
Others considered: Bunmi Rotimi, Hunter Snyder, Fermin Silva
Don’t even think about running those seven-step dropbacks, or taking more than three seconds to throw against me.
Yes, we may have an issue against teams with beefy O-Lines. But that’s okay.
The seven sacks a game will more than make up for potential issues against the run.
Ferguson’s time at Tech landed him at the number one spot in all-time in FBS football for sacks in a career (45).
Ximines was right there behind Ferguson as the conference’s second-best pass-rusher during their time in college.
Davenport’s back-to-back double-digit sack seasons made him a first-round pick for the New Orleans Saints in 2018, while Bee was outstanding against the run in four seasons at Marshall.
Linebackers: Azeez Al-Shaair (FAU), Chase Hancock (Marshall), A.J. Hotchkins (UTEP), Anthony Wint (FIU)
Others considered: Darius Harris
Because I may have issues against the run, tackling machines at linebacker are a must.
Luckily, these four guys are just that.
Al-Shaair, until his injury, was a force for FAU.
He’s fifth all-time in total tackles (395) and would have moved up to second on that list, had he not gotten hurt six games into last season.
At 6-0, 224-pounds, Wint may get overlooked because of his size.
But that’s okay, he’s going to be my version of Derrick Brooks. The current New York Jet finished with 336 tackles in four seasons at FIU.
The controversial pick here is Hotchkins.
He only played one season in C-USA, transferring from Oregon in 2017.
However, his 126-tackle, seven-sack season in 2018, proves that he has the dynamic ability to be a disruptive force and because this is a video game, be my second middle linebacker when I switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 look.
Defensive Backs: Jalen Young (FAU), Nate Brooks (UNT), Amik Robertson (La Tech), Nick Needham (UTEP), Kemon Hall (UNT), Ben DeLuca (Charlotte)
If running backs are somehow able to make it past the second level of the defense, I’ve got safeties who don’t miss tackles.
Charlotte’s hard-hitting Ben DeLuca has 261 tackles from his safety spot in three seasons, while former FAU safety Jalen Young was a certified ball-hawk, racking up 301 tackles and 13 interceptions in four seasons.
Brooks, Robertson and Hall have all been top-five performers in passes defensed, plus, Needham gives me another excellent corner for the Dime and Quarters packages.
Kicker: Jonathan Barnes (La Tech)
Others considered: Greg Joseph
I’m taking consistency over style points from the kicker spot.
Former Tech kicker Jonathan Barnes is the all-time leader in field goals made with 81 and made 79 percent of his kicks.
While current Cleveland Browns and former FAU kicker Greg Joseph has a stronger leg, he hit on only 69 percent of his kicks in college, which is a far cry from the 85 percent success rate during his first pro season.
Punter: Dalton Schomp (FAU)
Others considered: Jack Fox, Stone Wilson
Former FAU standout Dalton Schomp gets the nod as my punter.
Now, once again, this is a video game, so I’ll be attempting a ton of fourth downs.
However, when I do punt, Schomp can boot it a long way. He led the nation in yards per punt his junior season (47.8) and holds a career 44.9 average.
Former FIU punter Stone Wilson was considered, because he runs a 4.6 40-yard-dash, in addition to having a solid leg and his athleticism would have given me the option to run fake punts, when needed.
Returners: Kerrith Whyte (FAU), Isaiah Harper (ODU), Maurice Alexander (FIU)
Anybody who’s played the video game knows that it’s darn near impossible to score a touchdown on a return.
With my trio of return men, I’m hoping to average two a game.
Whyte and Harper will be the kick returners, while Alexander holds the punt return duties.
Harper took three kickoffs to the house in 2017 for ODU and Whyte has a career 2,115 kick return yards with two scores during his time as an Owl.
Alexander is easily the most dangerous punt returner eligible.
The former FIU quarterback had 357 punt return yards and a TD in his first season holding the duties.
What sets him apart is his speed.
When I asked him following his score against UMass if he felt he was the fastest player in the conference, he responded, “I don’t know anybody who’s going to catch me.”
Head Coach: Doc Holliday (Marshall)
Others considered: Butch Davis, Lane Kiffin, Skip Holtz
Another really tough call here.
Davis and Kiffin haven’t been in the league for very long, but, as a budding G5 program, I know that they’ll be able to recruit in a hurry and have us challenging for a conference title in no time.
However, I just couldn’t pass on Doc Holliday’s 43 wins from 2014-2018.
Marshall’s head coach is no slouch himself when it comes to recruiting.
His 2018 roster fielded over 25 players from the state of Florida, which, isn’t an easy task to get kids from the Sunshine State to head to Huntington, WV.