by Daniel Olsen
Many grown adults remember growing up playing the EA Sports versions of the college football video games. In a state where there is no NFL team and college football is king, Utahns take this very seriously.
A decade later, the video game will return to shelves. With that being said, it’s time to predict which athlete will grace the cover, and who our picks for the in-state schools in Utah might be.
BYU: Jacob Conover
Replacing the guy is never easy, and at BYU, that guy was Zach Wilson. While he struggled earlier in his career, this was mostly due to injuries. He had a stellar junior campaign, losing just one game and soaring up NFL Draft boards. With Wilson leaving a year early, that gives BYU two seasons to groom this poster boy for the video game: Jacob Conover.
Arguably the favorite to start at QB this year, Conover joins a college with a tradition of great quarterbacks. Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon, and now Zach Wilson have all been impressive in a Cougar uniform. What can Conover bring to the table?
He is a four star prospect out of Chandler High School in Arizona. He chose the Cougars over nearby Arizona State University as well as other top college programs. He served a two year mission for the LDS Church in Paraguay and spent last season learning from a deep quarterback room.
Not all high school studs at BYU have ultimately panned out. Tanner Mangum regressed near the end of his career after being named co-MVP with Jameis Winston at the Elite 11 QB camp. Jake Heaps, a highly recruited prospect in high school, ended up going from bad to worse as he ended up transferring to other colleges to get more playing time.
If Conover picks up where Wilson left off, he could be the best candidate in the state for the cover of this heralded video game.
Utah: Peter Costelli
In NCAA Football 2010, a former Utah Utes quarterback in Brian Johnson was on one edition of the video game. If the Utes can make it to one of the New Years Six games again, they could find one of their players on the cover.
That could be four-star commit Peter Costelli.
Costelli chose the Utes out of 19 scholarship offers. This included programs such as Oregon, Duke, Michigan and Nebraska. The Utes were his top choice for most of the recruiting process. Instead of foregoing his senior year and entering college early for spring football, Costelli decided to finish out high school and put on the Ute uniform in the fall season. He will compete for the starting job at the University of Utah.
Like Conover, if Costelli avoids the sophomore slump and plays well, he could be making the case to be on the cover of this video game. The tiebreaker could be whoever wins the Holy War rivalry game between BYU and Utah.
USU: Aurion Peoples and Coach Anderson
If there was a cover team for the classic rebuild a team in Dynasty Mode challenge, this would be it. The Aggies finished 2020 with just one win and look like a team in shambles. However, USU has been rebuilt before. The interesting part is the guy who put USU on the map a decade ago, Gary Andersen, also took them off the map. Andersen and USU athletic director mutually agreed to part ways just four games into his second season back with the Aggies.
Utah State decided to go with another Anderson in coach Blake Anderson. He comes from Arkansas State University. He has overcome many trials in the last couple years with losing his wife to cancer and his father around the same time as well.
Things have changed since Anderson took the job in Logan. He recently announced that he is engaged and will get married in a few months. Some Aggies lovingly joked that she was his best recruit.
As far as recruits on the football field go, junior college transfer Aurion Peoples is a big one. He followed Anderson to Arkansas State and now to Logan. He is a 6’4” DT from San Valencia California. If Anderson can find success with his fast paced offense, get physical play from Peoples and the rest of the Aggie defense, and have fun, then perhaps his vision will bring success among the USU football team.
The Aggies have the goal of winning a Mountain West championship and that appears to be possible although it won’t happen overnight. Like the dynasty mode in the college football game, Rome wasn’t built in one day. It takes a high level of recruiting, preparation and coaching.
Weber State: Taron Johnson and Jay Hill
The FCS doesn’t get much love in the video game as the real names of the teams aren’t used. Usually they are referred to as FCS West or something like that.
However, this is will be a new edition of the video game. If they have an FCS mode, a true contender in Weber State would have a case to be on the cover. Outside of North Dakota State and James Madison, they are in that second tier of FCS juggernauts.
Taron Johnson, cornerback for the Buffalo Bills, is a graduate of Weber State. He just set the postseason record for the longest pick-six in the NFL postseason. If we combine the best Weber State Wildcat in recent memory with the greatest coach then maybe that can help convince recruits to put on a jersey in a new dynasty mode. EA sports also owns the Madden video games so it would be cool to see NFL players cross paths more often in the college game.
SUU and Dixie State: Rivalry Edition
When the WAC comes back, this is going to be a fun rivalry with these two conference rivals in close proximity with each other. In 2023, the two teams will be one year into their new conference. It will start out at the FCS level and work to qualify for FBS status after that.
The cover could call it “Duel in the Desert” or the “Red Rock Rumble”. It will look like a blood bath with these two red teams going at it. Dixie should wear a mostly red uniform and SUU should wear a white uniform with red trim. As the WAC grows, this may be the only true conference rivalry in-state. Utah, Utah State and BYU have formed new conference rivalries out of state, although they often play each other in the non-conference part of the schedule.
Cover prediction: Jaxson Dart
While it would be great to see a college player in the state of Utah grace the cover, the next best thing is to put a guy with Utah ties on the cover. Enter Jaxson Dart. This senior is the cream of the crop in the class of 2021 as he was the highest rated quarterback out of the state of Utah. He led Corner Canyon to their third straight 6A state championship. If he has a solid freshman and sophomore season, he should be a lead candidate for EA Sports College Football 2024 in his junior season.
The cover should show him throwing the ball faster than a speeding bullet. It should look as if he was about to hit the bulls eye on a dartboard.
Some five star guy from Alabama is probably most likely to make it on the cover but fans of football on the West Coast and particularly the state of Utah can still dream. The NCAA should pick a variety of covers that will be most popular in their regional areas.
Other sports games have multiple covers depending on the edition. For example, Zion Williamson was the next generation cover athlete while Weber State standout Damian Lillard was the cover athlete for the standard edition. There is also a more expensive deluxe edition that comes with a bunch of rewards.
If EA Sports decides to cater to the West Coast market and cater to these fan bases, it could result in more sales. They could even offer customers a custom cover with their favorite player for more money. If they decide to do this, the ideas in this article should be in serious consideration.
Featured Image © Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune