National Signing Day may be the most important day in college football's off-season, but the second most important day may the date EA Sports releases the latest installment of the NCAA Football franchise. We do not have a confirmed release date for this year's game just yet but the vote is on to determine which former college football star will appear on the cover of this year's edition.
The competition started with a series of national polls to trim down the potential options. First EA Sports trimmed a list of finalist schools to 16. Once the list was reduced to eight schools EA Sports announced the athletes who would represent each school moving forward. Now there is one week left before advancing to the Final Four. With one week left in the Top 8 poll, we wanted to remind you who is competing for your votes to appear on this year's edition of the NCAA Football franchise.
Kenjon Barner, Oregon RB
One of the key players in Oregon's explosive offense will certainly be a popular choice, if only for the Oregon uniform. Given how fans of the NCAA Football franchise seem to overly prefer more and more offense, that has to make Barner a popular choice to the casual fans out there.
Joey Harrington was the last Oregon player to appear on the cover of the series, doing so for NCAA Football 2003.
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame TE
Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert has a solid enough profile but let's be honest here. If not for the fake girlfriend story this spot would have been reserved for linebacker Manti Te'o, and Te'o would have made for a terrific cover athlete. Well, the BCS Championship Game may not helped his cause either, but we'll ride with the imaginary girlfriend hoax story for now. No Notre Dame player has ever appeared on the cover of the series.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia OLB
If a defensive player is going to appear on the cover of NCAA Football, it just may be Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones. Jones is expected to be a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft after a terrific showing in the SEC each of the past two seasons. If Jones does not appear on the cover this year all eyes may have to focus in on South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney as a favorite for NCAA Football 15. No Georgia player has ever appeared on the cover of the series.
Eddie Lacy, Alabama RB
After a smashing performance in the BCS championship game, Alabama's running back may have emerged as a favorite. Consider the strong voting support Lacy will pick up from the Crimson Tide faithful and it is easy to picture Lacy appearing on the cover. Lacy is looking to join former Crimson Tide running backs Shaun Alexander and Mark Ingram to move Alabama in to a tie with USC for the most cover athletes. And no Alabama, you cannot claim 10 cover athletes.
EJ Manuel, Florida State QB
Florida State's quarterback capped his career by being the most accurate passer in Seminoles history, and he could have a chance to become the second Seminoles quarterback to appear on the cover. Chris Weinke, a former Heisman Trophy winner, appeared on the cover of NCAA Football 2002. If Manuel lands on the cover the Seminoles will tie rival Florida for cover athletes with two each.
John Simon, Ohio State DL
A defensive lineman on the cover of the NCAA Football franchise is a true rarity. Brian Orakpo from Texas is the only defensive lineman to appear on a cover. As hard as it may be to believe, Ohio State has never had a cover athlete on the game either. Is John Simon, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, going to be the first? Fan support will be there from the Buckeye Nation, but the odds may still be stacked against him when it comes down to the final decision being made from the EA Sports offices.
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M WR
We have to keep in mind that while Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel is having the best off-season of all-time, he is still ineligible to appear on the cover. We imagine he will be a front runner for the cover spot of NCAA Football 16. No Texas A&M player has appeared on the cover of the series but Aggie fans are known to show up strong for online polls. With a strong push Swope may be able to sneak in to the final four as a surprise pick.
Denard Robinson, Michigan QB
Michigan is no stranger to the cover spot of the NCAA Football franchise. Only USC has featured more cover athletes than the Wolverines but Denard Robinson has a chance to even the score. Robinson will still get plenty of fan votes because it is Michigan but his profile as a college star certainly dipped from the start of the 2012 season to the end of the year, when he was not even the top quarterback on his own team.
Past NCAA Football Cover Athletes
NCAA Football 13 - Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB; Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
NCAA Football 12 - Mark Ingram, Alabama RB
NCAA Football 11 - Tim Tebow, Florida QB
NCAA Football 10 - Brian Orakpo, Texas DE/LB (PlayStation 2); Brian Johnson, Utah QB (PlayStation 3); Mark Sanchez, USC QB (PSP); Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech WR (Xbox 360)
NCAA Football 09 - DeSean Jackson, Cal WR (PlayStation 2); Matt Ryan, Boston College QB (PlayStation 3); Owen Schmitt, West Virginia FB (PSP); Darren McFadden, Arkansas RB (XBox 360); Sparty, Michigan State mascot (Wii)
NCAA Football 08 - Jared Zabransky, Boise State QB
NCAA Football 07 - Reggie Bush, USC RB
NCAA Football 06 - Desmond Howard, Michigan WR
NCAA Football 2005 - Larry Fitzgerald, Pitt WR
NCAA Football 2004 - Carson Palmer, USC QB
NCAA Football 2003 - Joey Harrington, Oregon QB
NCAA Football 2002 - Chris Weinke, Florida State QB
NCAA Football 2001 - Shaun Alexander, Alabama RB
NCAA Football 2000 - Ricky Williams, Texas RB
NCAA Football '99 - Charles Woodson, Michigan CB
NCAA Football '98 - Danny Wuerffel, Florida QB
College Football USA '97 - Tommie Frazier, Nebraska QB
You can cast your vote for your favorite player in the EA Sports NCAA Football Cover Vote on Facebook.
Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com and host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast.
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