Note: There are roster limits on the game, so not all O.C. players can be found on it.
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Former O.C. stars get video game treatment
NCAA Football 13, EA Sports' annual officially licensed video game, was released last week and once again provides a look at how some former Orange County high school stars stack up against the rest of their college competition.
The game, which looks and plays similar to its previous two iterations for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, features "fully customizable rosters" but is technically forbidden from including individual names in its out-of-the-box version. However, each player is represented by an obvious likeness. The position, jersey number, and several other key features are immediately apparent.
Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas (Servite), for example, is known as TE #85 on the Fighting Irish's roster. However, his experience, height, weight, home state and more are accurately portrayed.
In the game's menu you can edit a player's name or any other attributes or skill ratings and gamers are permitted to share rosters via EA Sports' online portal.
While the "real" NCAA allows for each of its 124 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision to carry as many as 85 scholarship athletes, the digital NCAA allots space for merely 70. With the roster cap, several players are often missing, including a number of freshmen from OCVarsity.com reporter Dan Albano's Top 25 for 2012.
No. 3 Aaron Porter (La Habra) was surprisingly absent along with Colby Cyburt (Mission Viejo) and Carl Hulick (Esperanza). All three were UCLA signees and in the top 12 of Albano's 2012 list. Former Mission Viejo running back Jahleel Pinner, a USC commit who was No. 11 according to Albano, is also among those missing. Washington State sophomore and backup quarterback Cody Clements (La Habra) is noticeably absent from the game for the second year in a row.
Still, 13 of Albano's Top 25 for 2012 are featured in the game. Top prospect Kyle Murphy (San Clemente) is one of Stanford's top reserve linemen and Murphy's high school teammate, Travis Wilson, appears as a backup quarterback for the Utah Utes. Max Tuerk (Santa Margarita), Butch Pauu (Servite), Kyle Kelley (Woodbridge) and Christo Kourtzidis (Orange Lutheran) are also among those making their digital debut.
To help differentiate between starters, backups and potential Heisman Trophy winners, EA Sports uses a rating system based on a 100-point scale. Each player is "graded" among 43 separate categories.
A player's position on the field causes certain ratings to be weighted more heavily than others. For example, UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (Edison) is rated in areas such as strength, speed, acceleration, awareness, tackling, pursuit, hitting power, pass rush ability (finesse and power), coverage ability (man-to-man and zone), etc.
BYU running back Josh Quezada (La Habra) and USC fullback Charles Burks (Edison), on the other hand, would be affected by speed, acceleration and awareness, but also agility, fumbling tendency, hands, vision, break-tackle ability, and so on, with Burks being influenced more by blocking and strength than Quezada.
These attributes are taken into consideration when determining a player's overall rating. An average freshman or sophomore is likely rated between 60 and 70, while an average upper-classman approximately 5-10 points higher.
The following slideshow includes 30 former Orange County high school standouts that are playable within NCAA Football 13's original rosters. (Note: The list does not include every player in the game from Orange County.)
The list ranges from Heisman trophy candidate Matt Barkley, making his final appearance before a likely debut in Madden NFL 14, to so-called "impact players" like Nevada's Cody Fajardo to a variety of first-timers.
Travis Averill, OG, Boise State (Servite 2012). Averill, who was No. 8 in Dan Albano's Top 25 recruits for 2012, is the fifth guard on the Broncos' roster in NCAA 13. He is slotted at 65 overall with ratings of 78 in pass blocking and 71 in run blocking.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC, Mater Dei (2009). It's been interesting to track Barkley's progression through his four years in the game. As one of the nation's most touted freshmen, the Mater Dei grad received an 84 rating and it has climbed ever since. This season Barkley is one of three players to receive a 98 overall rating, tied for best in the game with Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Manti Te'o of Notre Dame. It's an eight-point jump from NCAA 12 for the senior QB. He is once again considered an "impact player" and is listed among the Heisman favorites in the game's Dynasty mode.
Oscar Barron, San Jose State, C (Buena Park 2012). There are actually two players who are listed as true freshmen from California and have similar physical statures on the Spartans roster in the game. C #60 matched Barron's attributes more closely, but you could argue that LG #65 could be him as well. Either way, Albano's No. 25 recruit for 2012 is certainly in the game, and if you go by C #60, the higher ranked of the two, he's a 54 overall.
Victor Blackwell, WR, USC (Mater Dei 2011). After making his debut as a 73 overall, the Mater Dei wideout is up to 80 overall in NCAA 13. He's rated a 93 in acceleration, which is equal to All-American candidate Robert Woods. Blackwell is the fourth receiver on the Trojans' depth chart in the game.
Blake Brady, CB, Arizona (Servite 2010). Brady was informed on June 13 that he has been granted a full scholarship with the Wildcats after making the squad as a walk-on two seasons ago. The former Friar makes his video-game debut at a 58 overall, including a rating of 90 in acceleration. He's listed as cornerback in the game, but the school's official roster designates Brady as a safety.
Terrance Brown, S, Northwestern (Los Alamitos 2012). Brown, who was No. 21 on Albano's 2012 list, is one of two freshman safeties on the Wildcats roster. Joseph Jones is the other, but the former Los Alamitos defensive back is the higher rated of the two. Brown checks in at 57 overall, while Jones is a 55. Much like other youngsters in the game, who are typically docked in the awareness attribute, Brown is rated just 46 in that category. However, it's likely to rapidly increase as his virtual career progresses.
Charles Burks, FB, USC (Edison 2011). Burks, who was one of the county leaders in sacks as a senior at Edison, was absent from last season's game, but comes in with a 75 rating as a redshirt freshman fullback. His best asset would likely be considered his speed. EA Sports gave him an 85 in speed and an 84 in acceleration, making Burks almost as swift as the last two running backs on the Trojans' depth chart.
Mike Criste, C, Washington (Mission Viejo 2010). The redshirt sophomore is a 74 overall in the game. He's the backup center on the Huskies, according to EA Sports, and has a strength rating of 79 and is an 82 in pass blocking.
Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State (Santa Margarita 2009). The 6-foot-6 junior and former football and basketball player with Santa Margarita is an 80 overall in the high-powered San Diego State offense. Escobar has a team-best 83 rating in hands and is an 86 in acceleration, six points better than any other tight end on the roster.
Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada (Servite 2010). Fajardo has come a long way in the NCAA series since redshirting his first year with the Wolf Pack. He has jumped from a 72 overall rating to 85 in one season. The 13-point jump is greater than the most prolific increases after a year of "training" in Dynasty mode. He is the starting QB, an "impact player" and is one point behind safety Marlon Johnson for the best overall rating on the team.
Garret Gilliland, LB, Washington (Orange Lutheran 2010). The former Lancers star started against Nebraska his freshman season when Cort Dennison was out with a concussion. Two years later, he enters with a 72 overall rating, down two points from last season, making him the fifth highest rated linebacker on the Huskies roster in the game.
Khaled Holmes, C, USC (Mater Dei 2008). A recently announced member of the Rimington Award watch list for the nation's top center, Holmes comes in with a 90 overall rating in the game. He's the fourth highest rated center in the game and anchors the Trojans offense as the top-rated interior lineman.
Kyle Kelley, DE, Arizona (Woodbridge 2012). Kelley, No. 6 among the county's Top 25 recruits, is a 63 overall for the Wildcats. He's fifth among six defensive ends on the in-game roster and debuts as a speed rusher. His speed rating is 72 and acceleration 81.
Christo Kourtzidis, TE, Florida State (Orange Lutheran 2012). A massive target at Orange Lutheran last season, Kourtzidis comes in at 67 overall. He was the No. 7 prospect in Albano's Top 25, but is fourth on the Seminoles depth chart behind three sophomores.
Austin Maass, OL, San Diego State (Mission Viejo 2012). Maass was Albano's No. 19 commit and is a 67 overall in the game. He's considered the third-string right guard, but could vault into the starter's role by year two if you use the Aztecs in Dynasty mode. Effectively, he's the eventual successor for senior and 86-rated Nik Embernate. The former Diablo lineman is a 77 in pass blocking and 75 in run blocking.
Kyle Middlebrooks, RB, Arizona State (Fountain Valley 2010). A number of players on Arizona State's roster are capable of playing multiple positions, Middlebrooks is one of them. He's an 82 overall, up eight points from last year, and is the primary backup behind running back Cameron Marshall. Despite his ratings spike, his speed rating dropped from 91 to 88. He makes up for it in some of the all-around categories. He's a 78 in catching/hands, six points better than any of the other four backs on the Sun Devils' depth chart.
Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford (San Clemente 2012). Top prospect Kyle Murphy could start at tackle for more than half of the teams in NCAA 13. He's a 79 overall with 84 ratings in run and pass blocking and a 78 in impact blocking. As second-stringer in the game he's behind RT Brendon Austin (88) and LT Cameron Fleming (93).
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame (Servite 2011). A year ago, the sophomore out of Servite was a 73-rated tackle. In NCAA 13, the highly touted recruit is a 74 overall at tight end. Oddly enough, the position swap did not give him an advantage over other tight ends in his blocking ratings. He's fourth on the positional depth chart in the game and is just a 71 in run blocking (fourth out of four TEs) and 72 in pass blocking (second).
Butch Pauu, LB, BYU (Servite 2012). Pauu comes in as an elite recruit and No. 5 on Albano's 2012 list. He's the backup left outside linebacker in the game and is a 72 overall, including an 85 in acceleration. The Servite star is another player who could very well be starting for a number of teams in the game as a freshman.
Joshua Quezada, RB, BYU (La Habra 2010). In all likelihood, Quezada will be used a lot by gamers in NCAA 13. He's an 83 overall, a six-point improvement since he debuted in the series two years ago. The game refers to him as a "power" back and rated him accordingly, giving him an 83 in ability to break tackles and an 81 in trucking.
Chase Rettig, QB, Boston College (San Clemente 2010). Rettig is a 76 overall, a two-point decline from last year. He's still listed as the team's starter, but the former San Clemente signal caller is no longer far and away the best rated QB on the Boston College roster. Two players are within three points of him on the depth chart.
Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona (Los Alamitos 2010). Richardson was a heavily recruited prospect out of Los Alamitos three years ago and originally committed to UCLA. Despite making his NCAA video game debut in the 2011 iteration of the series, the cornerback did not play for the Bruins and was dismissed from the team for a rules violation. Two years later, he's the top-rated defensive back in Tucson, checking in at 86 overall with an 89 in speed, 90 in agility, 90 in man coverage and 91 in zone coverage. He is the second highest rated player on the Wildcats defense and third overall on the roster.
Blake Rodgers, LB, Washington (Tesoro 2012). Rodgers was ninth on Albano's Class of 2012 list and makes his debut in the game as the Huskies' backup middle linebacker and a respectable 67 overall for an incoming freshman.
Max Tuerk, OT, USC (Santa Margarita 2012). As the No. 2 prospect in Orange County, according to Albano, Tuerk debuts in the NCAA football series with a 75 overall rating. If you use the Trojans in Dynasty mode, expect to see the former Santa Margarita tackle rocket up the depth chart. He's already an 84 in strength and 81 in pass blocking.
Josh Tupou, DL, Colorado (Buena Park 2012). Tupou is the second Buena Park star from last year to have their likeness in the game. He was No. 14 on Albano's list and is a 65 overall, fourth on the Buffaloes' defensive tackle depth chart.
Anthony Wilkerson, RB, Stanford (Tustin 2010). Wilkerson held steady in his third season of digital fame. He's an 84 overall, the same as last season. He remains behind senior Stepfan Taylor, who at 93 overall in one of the 10 best running backs in the game. At Tustin, Wilkerson showed a combination of speed and power, and the game replicates it. He's a 91 in acceleration and an 81 in breaking tackles (second among six Stanford backs).
Jonavaughn Williams, WR, UNLV (JSerra 2012). The lanky former JSerra star is listed as an "athlete" on UNLV's official roster, but in NCAA 13 he's a WR. In Albano's Top 25, Williams finished No. 13 and debuts on the digital gridiron at 56 overall. The Rebels have nine WRs on their roster in the game with Williams listed at the seventh spot on the depth chart.
Travis Wilson, QB, Utah (San Clemente 2012). The Utes reeled in two QB prospects, including San Clemente's Wilson. The 6-foot-6 passer is a 62 overall after coming in at No. 4 on Albano's list. He's nine points behind fellow freshman Chase Hansen, defined as a "pocket passer," and is a 77 in throwing power and 75 in throwing accuracy.
Max Wittek, QB, USC (Mater Dei 2011). Up three points from last season, Wittek comes in with a 76 overall rating. He's three points behind Cody Kessler and in the NCAA 13 race to be Matt Barkley's backup, Wittek is actually fourth (Jesse Scroggins, who recently transferred, is currently second on the depth chart). Apparently, the game's developers think the sophomore QB is a decent runner, giving him a 69 in elusiveness and a 67 in juke move, both tops among USC signal callers. Note: Running back Curtis McNeal leads the team pulling out a 92 rating in both categories.
Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA (Edison 2010). The junior from Edison is listed as the starting right outside linebacker in the game. He's an 82 overall, climbing from 79 the previous season, when he was considered middle linebacker by EA Sports. He's ranked better than 80 in four significant categories, including hit power, speed, acceleration and awareness.