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Ten Illini we would’ve loved to play with on EA NCAA Football

It’s been 11 years since the release of NCAA Football 14.

Growing up, I always waited for the release of NCAA Football video game to play in dynasty mode and take an obscure low-level team to the BCS National championship. For me, that was the San Jose Spartans, who I built into a WAC powerhouse,

Since then, I have been replaying the last version of the game, NCAA 14, to get my college football fix from January until Labor Day Weekend and the start of college football. Naturally, I switched my team to Illinois, and in the last 12 years, the Illini have won 13 national championships, and the coach (Me) is undefeated and a stellar 155-1. I lost to Nebraska in the 2017 Big Ten Championship before beating them in the National Championship a few weeks later.

Last week, the next edition of the NCAA Football video game was trending because of this tweet:

While EA Sports still has not confirmed the release date, it got me thinking. In the last 12 years, which Illini did we never have the chance to take to the College Football Playoff?

Honorable Mentions:

  • Blake Hayes
  • Bobby Roundtree
  • Geromino Allison
  • Jihad Ward
  • Duwane Smoot

10. Isaiah Williams

Photo by Jack Jungmann // TCR

Catch in Traffic: 99 | Agility: 95 | Acceleration: 92

This is a given. Williams is probably not the fastest nor a stand-out deep threat. But what he lacks in size or speed makes up for in yards after the catch after a quick 5-yard slant. Williams would have been a quarterback in his first two years, and his ability to be mobile in the pocket would have made Illinois a dual-threat powerhouse in NCAA Football 2020.

9. Jake Hansen

Illinois v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Awareness: 99 | Hit Power: 91 | Zone Coverage: 90

Hansen was a true field general as a middle linebacker in his career. Hansen not only had the awareness to know the play, but he also had the power hitting to create fumbles in the Lovie-ball era. He led the nation in takeaways with 14 between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Hansen quite literally put up video game numbers in his time at Illinois.

8. Owen Carney Jr.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 31 Purdue at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Block Shedding: 97 | Pursuit: 93 | Tackle: 90

Illinois started Owen Carney Jr. alongside Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph in the 2021 season. Carney Jr. was a menace in his senior season leading Illinois in sacks (6.5) and second on the team with 8 TFLs and 4 QB pressures. The 2021 defensive line had quite literal monsters because the next player you would have pressed B to switch to was...

7. Johnny Newton

Photo by Brad Repplinger // TCR

Finesse Moves: 99 | Block Shedding: 99 | Play Recognition: 99

Johnny Newton should be higher on this list, but let's be honest: most people only play offense on video games. But paired with Keith Randolph and Carney, Newton would have taken up two blocks, setting up the other two to be free to sack the QB. It’s a video game, and the consensus All-American would have padded the stat sheet as a run blocker who can disrupt quarterbacks.

Have you ever played with Aaron Donald or Ndamukong Suh in Madden? Well, regardless of the offensive line, you get a sack or a TFL. Newton, you have been that fun to play with in a video game. Maybe, finally, we would have subbed him on the goal line for a fullback dive.

6. Reggie Corbin

NCAA Football: Akron at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Carrying: 99 | Speed: 99 | Ball Carrier Vision: 93

Reggie Corbin was one of the few players in the Lovie Smith era who kept bringing people to the stands. But it wasn't Corbin that made him great (well it was, but let me finish the thought), but it was the offensive line he ran behind. Alex Palczewski, Doug Kramer, Kendrick Green, Vederian Lowe, and Julian Pearl all blocked for Corbin at some point and all are offensive linemen somewhere in the NFL. Running behind that line in a video game would have elevated Corbin to a four-time Heisman-winning running back.

5. AJ Bush Jr.

Illinois v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Play Action: 96 | Agility: 93 | Speed: 93

Bush played a single season at Illinois under offensive coordinator Rod Smith. That was the most fun offense to watch. Bush would use the play action and either toss it to Reggie Corbin take it on his own down the field. Bush had multiple games of 100 yards rushing and rushed for 187 yards against Nebraska in 2018.

Sure, Bush wasn't a gunslinger, but this is a video game. You hike the ball, run around a bit, and take it in 75 yards for the score. Then, you repeat that 50 times until your right joy stick gets a workout and your thumb gets arthritis. Running quarterbacks are the most fun to play with on any video game which is the only reason Bush cracks the top 5 ahead of Corbin.

4. V’Angelo Bentley

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Illinois Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Acceleration: 99 | Elusiveness: 97 | Speed: 92

There is one and only one reason Bentley is in the top 5. Kick and punt returns. Bentley is the only Illinois player to record a KRTD, PRTD, INT TD, and a FR TD in his career at Illinois. In a game where you play six Big Ten West opponents in the same season gives you a leg up with that many punts. There is also nothing more satisfying than taking a kick return back for a touchdown in a video game.

3. Mikey Dudek

NCAA Football: Youngstown State at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Catching: 94 | Route Running: 92 | Release: 92

Mikey Dudek had one full season for the Illini and it is good enough to rocket to the top the top 3 players you would want to play with in NCAA football. Dudek was a First-Team Freshman All-American, Second-Team All-Big Ten, and led the Big Ten in receptions & receiving yards in conference play. It's a shame that his injury rating was a 33 because he had the chance to be THE best wide-receiving prospect to come out of Illinois.

2. Chase Brown

TCR

Ball Carrier Vision: 99 | Elusiveness: 97 | Stamina: 92

Much like Reggie Corbin, Chase Brown lit up the stat sheet. With Williams starting to learn his role as a receiver, Illinois had no other option to go to in 2021 and 2022. Brown was it. Brown shifty movements, pass-catching ability, and the eye for a wide open gap (again thanks to some stellar offensive linemen) would have made him an elite video game running back. Brown ran for 100 yards in 10 of 12 games in 2022.

Brown ended up with the second-most career rushing yards (3,206) in Illinois history.

1. Devon Witherspoon

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Hit Power: 99 | Awareness: 99 | Play Recognition: 99

Nobody plays with defensive players in video games, but the cornerback position is the exception. When you have a lockdown corner, it almost negates any good quarterback. Play with Richard Sherman in Madden 15 or Jalen Ramsey on the Rams in Madden 21, and they are impossible to throw against.

Witherspoon is that classic prospect who comes in as a 0-star recruit that turns elite as a senior. I have developed these players as a coach in my 15 years of playing the video game. Spoon would have, hands down, been the most fun to play with in the video game.

Who do you think I missed?