Rookies are definitely flavour of the month in the Call of Duty League. While there were only three rookies in the CDL at the Opening Weekend of the 2021 season, that number has more than doubled since the start of Stage 2 as franchises look to talented youngsters in their academies or Challengers teams to make an impact.
In the last two weeks, Paul ‘PaulEhx’ Avila (London Royal Ravens), Carlos ‘Venom’ Hernandez (LA Thieves), Eli ‘Standy’ Bentz (Minnesota Rokkr), and Jamie ‘Insight’ Craven (Toronto Ultra) have all replaced more experienced players in the CDL. All three have already proven why they deserve a chance at the top of CoD esports, but it’s fair to say that some of these roster moves were met with confusion and even hostility from fans – none more so than when Ultra promoted Insight to its first team.
The Englishman was brought in off of Toronto Ultra’s bench, but this saw one of the community’s favourite players, Anthony ‘Methodz’ Zinni, dropped. The team’s Scottish coach, Mark ‘MarkyB’ Bryceland, came under fire pretty quickly as the man calling the shots, receiving accusations of British bias from a section of fans.
“We did expect backlash,” MarkyB tells The Loadout. “But you have to make tough decisions in esports, and some of those are going to be disagreed with by the fans. That’s one of those things that you just have to deal with. At the end of the day, as coaching staff, we’re just making whatever decision we feel is best for the roster, and we have to be thick-skinned.
“Most importantly, there’s definitely no narrative there in terms of a UK bias. I mean, I’ve dropped a full UK roster before, when I was the coach for Splyce, for an American roster. I think [some people] need to look at history and remember the facts.”
While he admits that he knew the decision to bring Insight in would not be entirely well-received, it’s already bearing fruit. After a tough run of performances, Ultra notched up an impressive victory against LA Guerrillas at the weekend, including a faultless 6-0 Search and Destroy in the final game.
Toronto Ultra Play of the Game Presented by @ScufGaming 🎮
.@InsightGawd put on his aviation hat for this one. Oh, and he also got a little 10 💣 on map 5 to close out S&D 6-0 🧹#StrengthInTheNorth #TeamSCUF pic.twitter.com/y4MksCDUNl
— Toronto Ultra (@TorontoUltra) March 28, 2021
Insight again performed well, and MarkyB says the youngster – dubbed “metal boots” by his teammates for his slow, methodical play – brings a much-needed set of skills to the roster.
“I think that he has a very strong backline, to the point where he really dictates what’s going on in-game, and that’s massive for our players,” he says. “If you look at our roster, it’s still quite inexperienced, and although Insight is also a younger player, he’s been competing for a number of years. Even I competed against him back when I was a player, so his age doesn’t define his experience.
“He’s really good at leading the line and telling everyone what to do in-game and that’s massively important for our group.”
With Insight already exhibiting leadership skills so soon after being introduced into the roster, MarkyB believes he has the league’s top CDL rookie on his hands.
Secret weapon activated ⚔️#StrengthInTheNorth pic.twitter.com/65PaooDe3e
— Toronto Ultra (@TorontoUltra) March 19, 2021
“Of course I’m biased but I put him up at the very top [of this season’s rookies],” MarkyB says. “I think he ticks all the boxes of being a top level player, in terms of his mentality and his communication.”
While it is always disappointing to see a player of Methodz’s quality dropped, the CDL moves quickly, and that at times requires some ruthlessness from those behind the scenes. MarkyB does however say the door is not completely shut for Methodz, as he will “continue to evaluate the roster” throughout the season.
Insight’s performances thus far have already proved he belongs in the CDL, and Ultra is far from the only turning to promising youngsters to try and reverse their fortunes.