Distraction or not, EA Sports College Football 25 excites players, coaches


By Seth Ellerbee

ATLANTA — It’s not the easiest task in the world keeping a roster of high school student athletes ranging from ages 14 to 18 focused on a solitary goal. It’s even more difficult during the summer workouts and practices which take away from the personal lives of each athlete during a time when school is not in session.

But a possibly overlooked distraction will be entering the ether in the ensuing weeks and, though football related, it might cause issues for head coaches and their respective staffs.

But then again, maybe it won’t.

Welcome back NCAA Football to the video game world.

Officially known as EA Sports College Football 25, the game releases July 19 on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. It’s been a long 11 years since the last edition of the game released in NCAA 2014 and a lot has changed.

Current seniors might remember their dads or older siblings playing it when they were seven or eight, but now they’ll be able to walk onto the online field to carve out a virtual college dynasty of their own.

And even more, those players might play as a teammate they have played with or against in high school. That’s a product of the new name, image and likeness deals which allowed the game’s producers to replicate all aspects of a player when previously they could not.

Now, former Collins Hill and current Colorado star Travis Hunter will be a cover athlete for the release.

A lot has changed.

And from a coach’s perspective, it could be worse.

“They’re going to play the game and I’d rather that than something negative,” said Newton assistant coach Kyle Baker. “As far as coming to practice, we don’t have issues with that. They are excited to play with their old teammates or opponents. I’m excited, I used to play it a lot in high school and college myself.”

Current high school coaches poured hours into the game throughout their high school careers, imagining themselves as, maybe, Heisman winner Reggie Bush, the cover athlete in the 2007 edition of the game, when EA Sports could profit from Bush’s image, but he could not.

Current Kell running backs coach Jonathan Dwyer was a formidable part of Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense in the 2010 edition of the game. The team was quarterbacked by Greene County legend Josh Nesbitt.

Granted, at the time, Bush was not named as such, he was just “RB #5” and Dwyer was “HB #21”.

Nesbitt? “QB #9”.

Now, the names will be included in the game, further adding to the excitement for student athletes and coaches who might play as a player they tackled in the region championship, or for coaches, a player they chewed out for being late to practice two seasons ago.

But, what’s the best time to play video games?

Late at night. And that could be an issue.

But it seems the worries about any negative impacts are all for naught and the consensus at the second day of the Brent Key/Corky Kell + Dave Hunter 7-on-7 Tournament at Georgia Tech is that if their minds are on football, and not Call of Duty or TikTok or any other of the countless distractions, that’s probably a good thing.

“I’m considering buying my son a PlayStation 5 so he can play it and learn the game,” said Sandy Creek head coach Darius Smiley.

And for at least a few coaches, they’ll now be able to play AS their son.

“I think it’s great,” said Greater Atlanta Christian head coach Tim Hardy. “I have a son at the University of North Carolina and he is going to be in the game and that’s awesome. We are all excited for it.”

Will Hardy is entering his sophomore season at UNC and is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound defensive back.

“If you’re at home playing NCAA 25, you’re playing football,” Hardy said. “It’s fantastic. Now, if they’re in a Dynasty Mode at 3 a.m. Thursday night during the season, that’s another deal. And just as a fan, I am excited.”

There’s a shared perspective from Smiley, who spent hours playing the game in his youth.

“I just look at it as a way for the guys to stay around football,” he said. “Playing the game and the different schemes you see, those we’ve tried to teach, that’s beneficial. I always try to tell my guys they can learn from the schematics and things but to visually see it in a game, the play calls and defensive shifts and stuff, that’s a good thing to virtually see it.”

If this author used a golf video game like PGA 2k23 to dissect and save shots on a real-life trip around Pebble Beach Golf Links, maybe the same thing will happen for the next great quarterback when he takes online notes and incorporates them into his Friday nights in the Fall.

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