Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
As they wait around in their hotel rooms Sunday night before the Labor Day showdown at Rutgers, Cincinnati's players will be fiddling around with video games.
But coach Brian Kelly can't accuse them of wasting time. In this instance, the Bearcats will actually be preparing for the next day's assignment.
Cincinnati is one of six schools in the country -- LSU, Oregon, Tennessee, Colorado and Arizona are the others -- to use the Thunder PlayAction Simulator from XOS Technologies. The program takes the EA Sports gameplay familiar to anyone who has spent time on the Madden or NCAA Football games and uses it to incorporate teaching methods. Coaches will draw the team's actual plays and opponents' coverages on the game, and the players can then simulate the action on the field.
Cincinnati bought the software over the summer and put it into full use this week, said John Sells, the team's video coordinator. Players are expected to use it this weekend in the team hotel.
"It's pretty cool," quarterback Tony Pike said. "You can program a blitz into the gaming system and make a read off it. And after you make a throw, it tells you if you made the right read or not."
Sells said all the team's passing routes and other plays are drawn into the system. While the program initially focused on quarterback play, it has been expanded into other positions on the field as well.
"You can have the tight end on it and ask him questions like, 'Who's your assignment?' or 'Who do you have to block on this play?'" Sells said.
Because the Bearcats are one of the few schools using the system, Sells said they can request updates and changes to it. One they've already asked for is the ability to simulate special teams plays like kickoff coverage from an individual player's perspective.
"The biggest value comes from being able to quiz the players on their assignment," Sells said. "You can find out what they've missed and then you know what they need to work on. It's also helpful for those down-the-line guys who maybe don't get a lot of reps in practice. It would be real useful for the third quarterback, for example."
And if the players have to study this stuff anyway, at least they can do it on a video game.
"The games are so realistic these days, and after you play quarterback they're easier to play," Pike said. "We're definitely moving up in the technology world."