Cover contenders: Hypothetical stars for NCAA College Football’s 11-year hiatus

  • David Hale, ESPN Personnel WriterMay 16, 2024, 11:15 AM ET Close ACC reporter.Joined ESPN
  • in 2012.
  • Graduate of the University of Delaware.After 11 lonesome years,

our long national problem is over.EA Sports officially launched a new cover of its renowned NCAA football game today, the very first in the series since NCAA Football 2014 came out in 2013. Even better, the lineups will be (mainly)total with actual existing college football players, thanks to the NCAA’s 2021 choice to enable name, image and likeness contracts.Of course, the game’s return does not offset the time we spent without it– the legendary players we missed out on, the specifying moments never ever to be recorded in ones and absolutely nos, and the many number of times you might’ve blown off a week of work to take UL-Monroe to a College Football Playoff National Championship.Editor’s Picks 2 Related While we can’t create a time device to fix those missed opportunities, we can supply at least a little revisionist history, by working back through the past 11 years to determine who would have earned the honor of gracing the cover of each version.First, a fast bit of context: During the game’s run(from 1993, initially as”Expense Walsh College Football “through 2013), the cover image couldn’t consist of an active player. Generally, the new game sported a cover design who had actually flourished the prior season in college but had already left for the NFL– Denard Robinson, Robert Griffin III, Mark Ingram and Tim Tebow, to name a few– leaving them totally free to sell their images to EA. But here, we’re envisioning a world where the NCAA allowed NIL beginning in 2014, making all players eligible for the cover image, even if they still had eligibility remaining. This also suggests that players such as Joe Burrow who took his talents to the NFL after his breakout season, would not make the cut as a theoretical cover athlete.With that said, here are our picks for the cover of each of the 11 missing seasons of EA Sports NCAA Football. NCAA Football 15 Anticipated release: Summer 2014 The contenders:

Florida State QB Jameis Winston, Florida State WR Rashad Greene, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon, Navy QB Keenan Reynolds, Clemson DE Vic Beasley It’s an embarassment the game vanished after the 2013 season, as NCAA Football 15

would’ve had its share of

excellent choices of incredibly popular first-year NFL players, from Aaron Donald to Jadeveon Clowney to Mike Evans to Kelvin Benjamin. The crop of returning players was a bit thinner, with some emerging stars like Gordon (1,609 backyards, 12 TDs in 2013 )and Reynolds(2,403 total lawns, 39 overall TDs)simply ahead of their prime. Mariota would go on to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy, but he went into that season in the shadow of Winston, who would have been the obvious choice if not for a series of off-field issues, consisting of a sexual attack allegation, that likely would have prevented EA from choosing him. Rashad Greene is Florida State’s profession leader in receptions(270)and getting yardage(3,830 ). Chris Trotman/Getty Images The cover: Greene. Let’s split the distinction here. No Winston on the cover, however the honor instead can go to another member of the FSU national championship group. Greene was among the true leaders of that 2013

squad, and he followed it up with an equally remarkable 2014 in which he caught 99 passes for 1,365 lawns and 7 touchdowns.NCAA Football 16 Anticipated release: Summer 2015 The competitors: Ohio State DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott, QBs J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, Arizona LB Scooby Wright, Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey, Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, Alabama RB Derrick Henry Mariota, Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley and Landon Collins all would’ve remained in the mix before the NIL era started, but the 2015 class used among the

most varied and deep listsof returning players worthwhile of cover status

. Ohio State won the championship game in the very first College Football Playoff in 2014, and the list of returning stars– Bosa, Elliott, Jones, Barrett, Braxton Miller, Von Bell– was incredible

. Wright’s unique skill set made him an ideal cover model, while Ramsey may’ve been the most vibrant professional athlete in college football at the time. Prescott warrants consideration, too, for getting Mississippi State to the top of the first CFP rankings, and had actually the world known what a star he ‘d later on become in the NFL, he ‘d most likely be the obvious pick here. Joey Bosa was a two-time consensus All-American and Smith-Brown Big 10 defensive lineman of the year. Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire by means of Getty Images The cover: Bosa. We love the concept of Jones, Miller and Barrett sharing the cover after Ohio State won a natty with its third-string QB, but we also visualize Urban Meyer stopping any extra media examination– even in the lighthearted form of a computer game cover– of his fragile QB circumstance going into the 2015 season. Instead, Bosa looks like the safe solution. He was dominant in the Buckeyes’title run in 2014, acquiring 13.5 sacks and 21 deals with for loss, and it was clear getting in the 2015 project that he was destined to be an early NFL draft pick. Plus, it’s excellent to give the defensive guys some love.NCAA Football 17 Anticipated release: Summer season 2016 The contenders: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, LSU RB Leonard Fournette, Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook This was a rare season in which the skill returning far went beyond the names headed to the NFL, so EA undoubtedly would’ve been pleased to have NIL open the doors to a much better cover choice than( no offense )Jared Goff or Eli Apple. In any case, the college choices were plentiful and all deserving. Mayfield had tossed for 3,700 lawns. McCaffrey was an all-purpose Superman. Cook was as electrical ofa runner as there was in the sport. Fournette was a high school legend who finally seemed poised to measure up to the recruiting hype. Watson had come within a hair of leading Clemson past the vaunted Alabama device for a nationwide title. Christian McCaffrey is the NCAA single-season all-purpose backyards record holder with 3,864. Jeff Gross/Getty Images The cover: McCaffrey. It’s a hard call in between the Stanford star and the emergent Watson, who ‘d go on to win a nationwide title over Alabama at the end of the 2016 season. But at the time, there disappeared amazing skill in the sport than McCaffrey, who was a consentaneous All-American after collecting 2,019 hurrying lawns, 645 receiving yards and 1,070 return yards for a truly astonishing tally of 3,864 all-purpose lawns– 613 more than the previous record held by Barry Sanders.NCAA Football 18 Expected release: Summertime 2017 The contenders: Mayfield, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley, Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick Mayfield had simply published his 2nd straight season

as a Heisman finalist, throwing for 40 goals. Barkley had actually hurried for almost 1,500 backyards and 18 TDs. Fitzpatrick was an emerging superstar on Alabama’s defense. There were excellent alternatives. However there was just one obvious option. At 19 years, 337 days old, Lamar Jackson ended up being the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Prize in 2016. Andy Lyons/Getty Images The cover: Jackson. His ability would’ve put him amongst the pantheon of the greatest videogame stars of perpetuity, along with Tecmo Bo Jackson, Jeremy Roenick in NHL 94, Bald Bull from “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!”and previous Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jeff D’Amico, who we

all when utilized to toss a perfect game versus our college roomie in MLB’99. Every play with NCAA Football Lamar Jackson would’ve been a deep ball or a scramble, and he ‘d finish a season with 20,000 lawns due to the fact that there would’ve been no response for him.NCAA Football 19 Expected release: Summertime 2018 The competitors: Stanford RB Bryce Love, Houston DE Ed Oliver, Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor, FAU RB Devin Singletary, Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry, Clemson’s defensive line of Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Dexter Lawrence It looks like an oversight

that Mayfield invested three seasons controling the Huge 12 without ever splitting our hypothetical NCAA Football cover, however alas, he ‘d carried on to doing insurance coverage commercials in a Cleveland Browns uniform by now. Fitzpatrick, Jackson, Barkley, Derwin James and Rashaad Cent were all off to the NFL, too, though all would’ve been remarkable cover options under the old system. Rather, the fight for the cover begins with a number of elite backs. Love was fresh off rushing for 2,118 backyards and 19 TDs. Singletary had a little Heisman hype,

including a design

race vehicle mailed out to Heisman voters to

press his campaign. Taylor had kipped down the first of three straight seasons with more than 1,900 backyards rushing in 2017. Oliver would’ve been a fantastic alternative, too. He was a dominant force with his own Heisman project( a bobblehead on a horse). But the honor most likely boils down to two options:

The ascendant QB at Alabama or the dominant defensive front at Clemson, each member returning for one last ride that ultimately ended with a national title. Tua Tagovailoa was named offensive MVP of the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game as a freshman. Todd Kirkland/Getty Images The cover: Tagovailoa. As much enjoyable as it would’ve been to see the Clemson D-linemen don their popular Power Rangers costumes on the game’s cover, the buzz in the summer season of 2018 was all about Tagovailoa. He ‘d come off the bench at halftime to rescue Alabama from the abyss in the national championship game, making him a rare combination of genuine star power and unknown commodity. The only issue with the option is the reaction it would’ve unquestionably stimulated from Nick Saban, who wasn’t entirely eager to stoke the flames of the expected QB battle between Tagovailoa and Jalen Injures that summer. Obviously, if NIL rules were in place in 2018, does anyone believe Hurts would’ve remained to ride the bench anyway?NCAA Football 20 Expected release: Summer 2019 The competitors: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor, Purdue WR Rondale Moore, Ohio State DE Chase Young, Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace, Alabama QB Tagovailoa and WR Jerry Jeudy, LSU DB Greedy Williams Lawrence and Etienne produced a worthwhile tandem, both fresh off a nationwide title with 2 years left at Clemson. Moore was a revelation as a freshman, electrical as a receiver and a return male. Young was the second coming of Bosa, a force of nature at the line of skirmish who acquired 9.5 sacks and 14.5 TFL, presaging an even bigger season in 2019. Tagovailoa and Jeudy had just been dismissed by Clemson in the title game, however there was still sufficient buzz surrounding Alabama. Trevor Lawrence never ever lost a regular season game at Clemson and went 24-2 as a starter. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images The cover: Lawrence. Not since Herschel Walker in 1980 had a freshman seemed so destined to win several championships as

Lawrence at this point. He ‘d taken over as Clemson’s starter in Week 5 of the 2018 season, posted dominant numbers, then led the Tigers to a nationwide title while annihilating the unstoppable force of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and by the

end of 2019, Lawrence’s title team didn’t even appear nearly so dominant anymore after Joe Burrow & Co. set the requirement in college football. Still, Lawrence was an authentic star, and if there’s anything we’ve gained from lifestyle magazines for many years, it’s that hair as glorious as his belongs on the cover.NCAA Football 21 Anticipated release: Summer season 2020 The competitors: LSU CB Derek Stingley and WR JaMarr Chase, Alabama WR DeVonta Smith, Oregon OL Penei Sewell, Penn State Pound Micah Parsons, MinnesotaCB Antoine Winfield Jr., Ohio State QB Justin Fields If scrubbing Lamar Jackson from the college football game record booksis the greatest loss from NCAA Football’s 11-year hiatus, the lack of a 2020 edition is a close second. It’s difficult to overemphasize how many systems would’ve sold at the height of the COVID-19 shutdown, when it looked for much of the summertime as if no real college football would be played. Instead of choosing strolls, starting home restoration projects or spending quality time with instant family, we might’ve wasted away those long, tumultuous days challenging LSU’s supremacy with adventurous upstart Grayson McCall and Coastal Carolina and constructed a dynasty. Unfortunately, it was not indicated to be.This likewise might be the year when EA was most persuaded to return to the old process and choose a player who starred in the prior college football season however was now

off to the NFL, due to the fact that Burrow definitely should have

a cover after his

2019 campaign. If we’re sticking with our precedent of returning players, nevertheless, his LSU teammates Stingley and Chase made for exceptional alleviation prizes. Stingley starred as a real freshman, anchoring

that LSU defense, while Chase was the most dominant receiver on a team absolutely stacked with skill at the position. Parsons would’ve been a nice alternative after offending players controlled the covers, and Sewell might’ve been a deserving hat tip to big males all over. Smith wasn’t exactly declared as a genuine superstar getting in the 2020 season, but he ‘d acquired 1,256 receiving lawns and 14 goals as a junior and, by year’s end, would end up being the first Heisman winner who wasn’t a QB or running back because Charles Woodson. Derek Stingley Jr. was the 10th main protective starter on LSU’s 2019 undefeated and championship game group to be prepared. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire through Getty Images The cover: Stingley. There were lots of good options here, however Stingley had the recruiting hype, on-field performance, and post-national title glow to warrant a cover, and it’s nice to get away from the QBs and skill position guys on offense. That the rest of Stingley’s LSU career didn’t quite match the freshman hype– mostly due to injuries– is unimportant here. LSU was the best group to grace a college football field in decades, and he had a strong argument to be considered its greatest returning star.NCAA Football 22 Anticipated release: Summer 2021 The contenders: Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei, Alabama QB Bryce Young, LSU’s Stingley, Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Cincinnati CB Sauce Gardner, Iowa State RB Breece Hall Therefore it is that we’ve reached the year in which actual NIL offers were occurring around college football, even if EA would require another three years before it might take advantage of the guideline change to release a brand-new game. Still, NIL permitted

players like Uiagalelei, Young and Stingley to end up being home names beyond just the college football world, enjoying nationwide recommendation offers and a new level of prestige. However Dr Pepper is something.The cover of NCAA Football is another. Young hadn’t taken a meaningful breeze yet at Alabama, but his star turn was all however ensured. Gardner, fresh off leading Cincinnati to the first playoff berth for a Group of 5 school, may’ve been an interesting choice, too. A retrospectively amusing alternative may’ve been J.T. Daniels, who looked poised to take over at QB at Georgia in the summer of 2021, only to lose his task to a previous walk-on– who we’ll get to in a bit– a couple months later. D.J. Uiagalelei went22-6 as Clemson’s starting quarterback. Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images The cover: Uiagalelei. There’s not a clear front-runner among the competitors, but Uiagalelei was probably the biggest name at the time. He ‘d began 2 games in relief of Lawrence in 2020 and looked fantastic in both. He was a previous first-class recruit. He had a big personality, huge arm and currently had actually tattooed some huge recommendation offers. It’s almost difficult to imagine now– knowing how it all turned out– however on the heels of Tajh Boyd, Watson and Lawrence excelling at Clemson, Uiagalelei seemed about as near a guaranteed star as possible. But hey, perhaps in 2023 at Florida State, he’ll actually become one.NCAA Football 23 Anticipated release: Summer season 2022 The competitors: Georgia DT Jalen Carter, TE Brock Bowers and QB Stetson Bennett, Alabama QB Young and OLB Will Anderson, Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn, USC QB Caleb Williams and WR Jordan Addison, Ohio State QB CJ Stroud, Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke, Texas RB Bijan Robinson, previous cover winners Georgia’s go to a nationwide title permits plenty of choices in Athens, with Bowers the clear headliner, Carter the defensive force, and Bennett the precious underdogsuccess story. Anderson was coming off one of the best seasons for a pass-rusher in current memory, and Williams and Robinson had actually both flashed enough skill in the latter half of 2021 to be primed for even larger things ahead. And after that there’s Young. The previous two Heisman winners to return to school the list below year– Winston and Jackson– were our choices to grace the cover, so neglecting Young’s win would be tough. Simply put, this would’ve been among the inmost pools of cover prospects throughout the 11-year lack of the game, however it also would’ve marked the 20th edition of NCAA Football, and it’s entirely possible EA would want to celebrate the event with a retrospective, maybe including some past cover designs such as Tommie Frazier(from the game’s first cover), Woodson, Tebow or Reggie

Bush. Brock Bowers is a two-time nationwide champion and holds Georgia’s record for single-season receiving touchdowns with 13. Todd Kirkland/Getty Images The cover: Bowers, alongside the greats. This is the most stylish option. Yes, EA ought to’ve celebrated its 20th installment by putting previous stars on the cover, however the best method to mix the old with the brand-new would be to add Bowers– quickly to be the game’s most vibrant tight end– to the group.NCAA Football 24 Anticipated release: Summertime 2023 The competitors: USC’s Williams, Colorado WR/CB Travis Hunter, QB Shedeur Sanders and head coach Deion Sanders, Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU Pound Harold Perkins, UNC QB Drake Maye Williams was the defending Heisman winner. Perkins looked like he ‘d be the biggest star in the sport after a show-stopping freshman project. Harrison was currently a star with adequate name acknowledgment. The whole Colorado story was a golden goose for everyone included. Caleb Williams, the 2022 Heisman Prize winner, holds numerous USC single-season records, consisting of overall offense (4,919 lawns)and many rushing and passing touchdowns scored (52). Ali Gradischer/Getty Images The cover: Williams.

And maybe this is the one time we’re grateful for the game’s absence due to the fact that, as much as we think Williams would’ve been the deserving honoree to grace the cover, there’s likewise a quite strong chance the allure of a Coach Prime sales bump would be too hard to ignore, and frankly, Sanders didn’t require any more hype. On the other hand, there’s a lot of time for Prime to win the Big 12, watch as his boy wins the Heisman, recruit a top-five class without leaving

his workplace, and capture the cover of NCAA Football 26.

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