Too early to say exactly how WVU’s visit to EA Sports in July will shape the upcoming release of the game, but Ryan Dorchester and Alex Hammond shared with me what they shared with the video game designers and producers.
“Not being a video game designer, not understanding tearing the whole thing apart or how to build it, it is close and it does give you that feel of the general manager where you get control of the roster. Everyone likes to pick who you want, but what the game doesn’t accurately represent is just how hard it is to get a kid.
“In the game, you can be Youngstown State and probably land a five-star player if you really worked at it. That’s not a real-life representation.”
“In the current game model, you recruit three weeks before the season, a couple weeks in the season and then have a signing day. Our message to them was how this is a 365-day process that involves multiple staff members.”
“When you’re playing the game, once a kid commits, he’s done. We said, ‘That’s far from real life.’ I don’t know how you curb that in any way, but when a kid commits, that doesn’t mean anything. It’s really just started. People are trying to get kids to de-commit and kids are flip-flopping around.”
“One thing we hammered was the difference in terminology between a verbal and a signee and also what you have to look for in terms of holding onto a guy that’s given you a verbal commitment.”
Dorchester and Hammond detailed the many things that can change the mind of a player or a school, beginning with academics.
“Every kid you sign in the game qualifies and that plays a huge kid role in recruiting, but that’s not accurately representing real life in the video game. I wish it was that easy. We wondered if there was a way to somehow incorporate the academic component. You sign a kid, but it turns out he’s a non-qualifier and you’ve spent time and effort recruiting a guy you’re not going to get.
“That was something we said would definitely help add much more of a real-life feel, especially if there were a way to build it in where academics are different at different schools. What you could do was maybe allow a school of a lesser stature to roll the dice and take a guy that’s maybe a better player than that school might normally get.”
“The effect of your season and whether you win or lose more than expected plays into the commitment level of a kid and whether he’ll commit and if he’ll stay committed.”
“We talked about a coaching change, which is a very realistic deal in college football, and how that could potentially affect recruits and sway them from one place to another. There’s no sort of feel for that in the game. And the impact of your season, and whether that causes coaching changes, I didn’t really think had a big role in the game. How you did from game to game and how that affects a kid, we thought that was an area maybe they could enhance a little bit.”
The Mountaineers were also interested in how EA Sports treated junior college players, who are becoming bigger parts of WVU’s recruiting classes.
“A high school kid could be every bit as good as a junior college player. There was nothing to differentiate between the two in the game. Who are you going to take? The high school kid, because you’ll have him longer.
“One other thing we talked about was most freshmen are not prepared to play. I know the game has a few things where the awareness rating was down, but freshmen on the whole, most are not ready to play on this level and that’s where junior college players can benefit you. They’re more mature. They’ve played a higher level of competition. They’re more ready to be plugged into a spot.”
Hammond and Dorchester also outlined NCAA legislation about signing limits. They suggested EA Sports put more significance into the recruiting board and making sure users were responsible for tracking positional needs and the size of both the recruiting class and the roster.
“You can’t go into vast oversigning like you used to in the past. When you look at your recruiting board, you have to factor in so many different variables. Understanding the board and making sure players will qualify and making sure you’re filling positions of need and not oversigning one area so that it costs you in another was something we spent an extraordinary amount of time on.
“From what I understood, you play the game and can oversign by 10 and say, ‘OK, I’ve got to get the roster to 85,’ and just cut 10 players. We can’t do that.”