EJ Manuel has played NCAA Football for years with his friends, so when it came time to work with EA Sports on NCAA Football 14, the former Florida State signal caller was excited about the opportunity.
I recently got a chance to talk with Manuel, who led Florida State to a 12-2 record and an Orange Bowl victory this past season, about NCAA Football 14 and how its gameplay is stacking up versus what you see on the field in the real thing on Saturdays in the Fall.
Manuel was down in Orlando giving the development team pointers on how real college offenses work, including the zone reads Florida State commonly ran last season. He also got a tour of the EA facilities down in Orlando.
"I had a great time down here with these guys," Manuel said.
Manuel was genuinely impressed with the EA team's efforts, saying he was most impressed with the new running features within the game.
"The new abilities when you run the ball, the new stiff arms, jukes, hurdles all were better it felt like to me," Manuel said of the new run game features.
Another new feature is the overhauled line play. Manuel said the man and zone blocking schemes were eerily familiar to what he was used to at Florida State as, "they are exactly what they are implementing here in the game (NCAA 14)."
"If you run the zone with a running back, those guys (offensive linemen) are trying to get their heads across the defensive ends or defensive tackles and that's what they really do in real life. I think that adds a whole new dimension for the running backs to find a real hole. He has to be patient and just can't run up behind a guy or he's going to get tackled," Manuel said of the line play.
That doesn't mean the game is overpowering to the offense though. Manuel said he felt the game was much smarter when it came to how defenders react to the ball and what you are doing, citing the DBs ability to jump routes as just one example of this improvement on the defensive end.
On the new speed burst, Manuel said it would help you burst through a hole once it opens. When a hole opens up, you click the trigger and you will see your back burst through the opening in the line, adding a new mini-game element within the run game. Scat backs who live to run in space are even more dangerous this year with the new line play and run game features as any bit of space could make them especially deadly.
Another visual addition to the gameplay will be the different looking line play up front.
"The line play is a lot more violent. These guys aren't just standing there like before. I think they call it the waltz around here? These guys are really hitting each other up front, it looks better."
Manuel was also impressed with the new playbooks, which play closer to the teams offensive styles than ever before, "All of the playbooks are very detailed and very different. You see teams like Oregon and Stanford with two completely different play books this year. They're incredibly realistic and varied."
With all of the new emphasis on the run game, some fans have already expressed some concern about a lack of attention with the passing game. I had those same fears and asked Manuel about what was different with the passing game this year.
"One thing I do like about the passing game is that if you are late on a pass, it's going to be a knockdown or an interception. Timing is everything. Last year if you dropped back and accidentally hit a button your guy would still catch the pass, this year you're done if you do that. The defense will make you pay."
The pocket continues to get some attention this year too. You'll be punished even more for big drop backs, with the QB drop backs looking a little better this year versus last according to Manuel.
Manuel had experience playing with Alabama, LSU, and (of course) Florida State in NCAA Football 14. Manuel did seem impressed with the game and the improvements made on both sides of the ball this year. The additions do all sound great, we are expecting to get our first chance to see and feel NCAA in action first hand in the coming months.