Defensive Specialist FAQ by jeremyw1976

Version: 3.0 | Updated: 09/08/03 | Printable Version

-- NCAA Football 2004 for PS2 - Defensive Specialist FAQ --
-- by Jeremy Watson : e-mail: --
-- Version 3.0, 9/8/2003 --

How to Read this FAQ :
-->       Note of Interest
***       Absolute Must Read
<Q>       Most Asked Questions
<update>  Changes from the last version
<Tip #>   Must read! These tips will improve your defense
          (no matter what your skill level!)
\/\/\/\/  New Section

<Q> --> So what is in this FAQ? <--
This FAQ explains in detail how to play better defense for NCAA Football 2004.
I try to avoid giving away moneys plays which will inflate your sack totals to
10+ a game, but I will give you strategies to employ against your bitter
college football rivals any try to answer some of the most common questions.


*** Defense in General on NCAA 2004 ***
Defense is the name of the game in NCAA Football 2004. If your defense is
constant and you can count on shutting your opponent down in key situations,
then you will win a lot of games without a money offense. Many players focus
on offensive money plays and don't know how to play good defense relying too
much on blitzing and bump and run coverage. Learn to play smarter defense and
you won't be vulernable to any particular offense.

The defensive AI engine is NCAA Football 2004 is a lot like last year's
version of the game. Improvements have been made in key areas which make
your DBs smarter especially when it comes to zone coverages. You'll probably
want to run with default sliders at the All-American skill level since online
ranked games are forced to those settings. No longer does the deep ball become
a non-skilled player's best friend. DBs will get in position and intercept
many of these deep throws making them not worth the risk.

*** General Tips ***
<Tip #1> *** Coaches Camera ***
Holding R2 pre-snap shows you what your players should be doing on defense.
This detailed diagram helps you decide how to defend each play. A big yellow
circle means that player is supposed to cover that area no matter what the play
is and make adjustments during the play, a red line means your defensive player
is matched up with the offensive player that the red line points to, and the
blue circle means that player is a spy for the backfield and any runs by the QB.
The rest of your players are rushing the QB. Remember these responsibilities and
note that if you make the player you are in control of do something different,
you might be opening the door for a big play in your opponent's favor.

<Tip #2> *** Line Movement ***
Line movement is back in NCAA 2004. You can move your defensive line,
linebackers, and secondary pre-snap using button combinations before the snap.
This can be difficult to manage since the offense could snap the ball at any time.
The combinations for pre-snap movement are as follows:

Primary Button     Secondary Button     Movement

L1                 Left or Right        DL shifts left or right
L1                 Down                 DL pinches down inside
L1                 Up                   DL shifts to outside position
L1                 L1                   DL shifts to normal position
R1                 Left or Right        LBs shift left or right
R1                 Down                 LBs pinch down inside
R1                 Up                   LBs shift to outside position
R1                 R1                   LBs shift to normal position
Triangle           Left or Right        Secondary in normal coverage
Triangle           Down                 Secondary moves in for tight man
Triangle           Up                   Secondary moves back for deep zone

These pre-snap movements can be very effective in creating mismatches between
your DL and the other teamís OL. A lot of times a blitzing LB will get blocked
easily in a normal defensive set, but if you shift your DL left or right and
move your LB to a pinched position, you might confuse the OL long enough to
have him break through for a sack or run stop.

Experiment with these movements and find out what works best for your team.
After playing quite a few games online I noticed that the blitz happy people
love to move their players all around pre-snap trying to confuse (and take
advantage of the programming) your offensive linemen. It seems to work well,
but look for CPU controlled opponents to throw a quick pass.

<Q> --> Who should I control on defense? <--
It depends on who you like to control and who you trust to let the CPU handle.
I almost always control the FS and pick a play to allow my FS to roam around
and pretty much do what he wants without giving up too much. You might trust
the CPU to handle your FS and come with a pass rusher. I get frustrated when
using a pass rusher because the CPU is always quick on the release if a I get
a good rush and that is why I control the FS. I have seen players online be
successful at almost every position on defense, so the call is really yours.

Pressure on the QB is the key to stopping the passing game. If you CPU
controlled rushers can't get any pressure, you are going to get torched for
a whole lot of passing yards. In this case, I would take control of a rusher
and see I can have an impact on the pass rush. After evaluating how my
defense stacks up against an opponent, I know which part of my defense needs
my control and which players to let the CPU handle.

<Q> --> Does switching to a defender closest to the ball create more INTs? <--
In this year's version, oh yes! Finally a football game where you can make
defender adjustments while the ball is airbourne and make some INTs. I actually
had 16 INTs in my first 8 games agaisnt the CPU and I average 2+ INTs a game
online. These are not luck either, switching and controlling the defender is
almost as effective as switching to the WR and making the catch. It just takes
some practice and some hand-eye skills which I know you guys have.

Going for INTs is wonderful, but if you miss, be prepared to give up the big
play because it happens often in NCAA 2004.

<update: 2.0>
*** Making the INT ***
The key to making INTs is position, sometimes your DB will have it and
sometimes not. Learn to recognize the position you'll need to make a play on
the ball. Don't go for the INT if you are out of position becuase you'll give
up the big play. Instead try to make a good hit and jar the ball loose.
Practice and good control skills are needed to gain position on the ball.
Hold down R1 to strafe and keep position and press triangle to make the INT.
Good teams to practice against are teams that run those 5 WR set a lot like
Florida, Hawaii and LaTech.

<Q> --> I canít seem to get to the opposing teamís QB, what can I do? <--
This is a tough one to answer. Many players are blitz happy and want to sack
the QB every time he drops back to pass. I love the challenge of coverage
though and have found that I actually get more sacks if I cover well than if
I blitz the whole game. Picking the right defense at the right time, blitzing
in certain situations, and staying with your coverages will up your sack total
in no time!

Now I know that many players know some ways to overload the line or some blitz
against a certain formation that gets a sack 9 times out of 10 with their 99
overall DE, but for the rest of us who really want to ball, stick to my advice

<update : 2.0>
*** Getting lots of pressure ***
You know your opponent is going to pass, but you want to play a good zone and
still get some pressure on the QB. Here is something to try out, pick your
zone defense and take control of a DE that doesn't have a TE lined up near
him (If it is a 2 TE set, don't try this method), then move that DE one step
outside of the OL trying to block him, finally when the ball is snapped rush
upfield using the O button and curve in towards the QB. this usually results
in a sack or a rushed throw which will up your INT total.

<update: 3.0>
*** Getting sacks ***
Well I have found out some more information for those of you who just love to
get lots of sacks. Forget blitzing, the key is a quick jump off the snap and a
slow OT reaction along with the QB not stepping up into the pocket. Online this
strategy might backfire since most players know how to step up into the pocket
and avoid this type of rush. The CPU however is reather dumb and sometimes rolls
into the pressure. Warning, this technique might produce a lot of INTs and
lopsided scores, so if you want a challenge, don't use it against the CPU.

Pick your normal defense and see which side of the ball doesn't have a TE who
could possibly block you (you could rush around the TE too, but that is less
likely to produce a sack). Now wait until your DE goes into his two point stance
and slide him one spot to the outside of the OT. Follow the technique above and
watch your sack total rise. I would only try this technique with a speedy DE
meaning he should have a speed above 65. If you have such a DE, but he is weak
against the run, try the situational substitutions and put him in for Nickel and
Dime defenses only.

<Q> --> Will the CPU recognize that my opponent calls the same play a lot? <--
Yes, yes, yes... I have seen this happen. If the offense calls the same play
quite a bit, the defense even if human controlled will recognize and get a
significant speed burst to help stop the play. So one and two play wonder
players beware! I have found that if you rotate through 4-6 plays, the CPU
usually doesn't hit you with this penality.

You might also be wondering if the CPU reads your defense and burns you if you
call the same defense every play. The answer to this is really no, the CPU
doesnít recognize if you call the same defense every play, but then again, why
would you want to call the same defense every play?

<Q> --> How do I control my players better to make open field tackles? <--
First off, don't dive unless you absolutely have to. You should always try to
run into the offensive player while pressing O to make a powerful hit. Learn
your player's speed so you can take the right angle to run an opponent down.
Don't worry if your player is slow, with the right angle you can get there
most of the time.

Tackling in the open field is all about the right angle. If you have too much
speed going into the tackle it will be very difficult to stop if your opponent
makes a move on you. To combat this, you'll need to perfect the "strafe" move
on defense. Press and hold R1 to slow your guy down and have him run sideways.
This move alone is the most useful on defense, it allows you to make fine
tuned adjustments to make a tackle or position yourself for an INT. Remember
that your player will slow down in order to "strafe" so keep that in mind while
in the open field.

Many players go for the strip in the open field and get run over. Don't try for
the strip if you are the only guy there making the tackle. If you have several
guys in the area, then go for the strip. The runner will have a greater chance
to break your tackle if you go for the strip. To strip press either L2 or R2
while going for the tackle.

<Tip #3> *** Situational Substitutions ***
This is the same as last year's version...

Using the Rosters menu under Options, you can fiddle with who plays and in what
formation. This allows you to specialize your formations in the following way,
say you want all run stoppers for your 4-4 defense. Select the 4-4 and change
the players one by one. All of these settings are then saved when you leave
this screen. Using situational substitutions does 2 things for you. The 1st is
it allows you specialize your defensive formations for specific styles of
defense. Say it is 3rd and 3, but you want your run stopping DE in the game.
Well if you set up your 4-4 defense earlier, you can just call a 4-4 play and
heíll be in the game. This makes it easy to bring specialized players into the
game without interrupting the flow of the game. The 2nd thing situational
substitutions does for you is that it keeps your players fresh. Say you always
run a Nickel defense on 1st down, but often switch to a 3-4 for 2nd and 3rd downs.
The specialized players in your Nickel will be getting rest while the 3-4 is on
the field.

Iíve found that most of the ďback-upsĒ can be recruited in such a way so that
they are super specialized. A LB with 75 speed for coverage or a 330 lb. DT for
clogging the middle. Look for these guys when recruiting in the later weeks,
youíll be surprised how much they help your team.


*** Defensive Formations ***
NCAA Football 2004 still has the 4-4 and 5-2 types of defensive schemes but did
not add the Quarter defense like in Madden 2003. Every team uses the same
defensive playbook which makes all of the following tips applicable to any team.

Note: A Big formation is one with 2 TE or Goaline. A Normal formation is one with
2 WR, 1 RB, 1 FB, and a TE. A 3+ WR formation has 3 or more WRs and any
combination of other players.

--> 3-4 (3 DL, 4 LB, 2 CB, FS, SS) <--
Strengths: Spreads out your defense, Flats and Sweeps, Covers the middle of the
           field well.
Weakness:  Don't expect a decent pass rush without blitzing, Runs up the middle,
           3+ WR sets could force a LB to cover a WR and create a mismatch.
Report Card - Overall: C
vs run (Big):    C-                vs pass (Big):    B+         Big:    C
vs run (Normal): B-                vs pass (Normal): B-         Normal: B-
vs run (3+ WRs): B                 vs pass (3+ WRs): D-         3+ WRs: C

--> 4-3 (4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, FS, SS) <--
Strengths: Up the middle runs and off tackle plays, against Normal sets allows
           one blitzer but still covers well.
Weakness:  Flats and Option type runs, 3+ WR sets are trouble
Report Card - Overall: B
vs run (Big):    B                 vs pass (Big):    A          Big:    B+
vs run (Normal): A-                vs pass (Normal): A+         Normal: A
vs run (3+ WRs): A                 vs pass (3+ WRs): F          3+ WRs: D

--> Nickel (4 DL, 2 LB, 3 CB, FS, SS) <--
Strengths: 3 & 4 WR sets, Option plays if you blitz, Deep passes out of a Normal
           formation. Allows double of both WRs while still covering well.
Weakness:  Screens and Draws, 5 WRs can be a problem still, Off tackle plays
Report Card - Overall: A-
vs run (Big):    B                 vs pass (Big):    B+         Big:    B+
vs run (Normal): B+                vs pass (Normal): A          Normal: A-
vs run (3+ WRs): B                 vs pass (3+ WRs): B          3+ WRs: B

--> Dime (4 DL, 1 LB, 4 CB, FS, SS) <--
Strengths: 4 & 5 WR sets, Deep passes out of a any formation. Allows double of
           both WRs while still covering well.
Weakness:  Draws and any run, Watch for the QB to take off if you have everyone
           covered, Watch the 5th WR if you are covering him with your SS
Report Card - Overall: D
vs run (Big):    F                 vs pass (Big):    D+         Big:    F
vs run (Normal): D-                vs pass (Normal): B-         Normal: C-
vs run (3+ WRs): C-                vs pass (3+ WRs): A+         3+ WRs: A-

--> 4-4 (4 DL, 4 LB, 2 CB, FS) <--
Strengths: Shuts down most runs, Screens and Flats, Big formations
Weakness:  3+ WR is deadly, Watch out if you opponent lines up a speedy TE,
           Playaction, Gives up the deep ball if the QB has time, and RBs
           motioning out of the backfield
Report Card - Overall: B-
vs run (Big):    A-                vs pass (Big):    B          Big:    A-
vs run (Normal): A                 vs pass (Normal): C          Normal: B
vs run (3+ WRs): A+                vs pass (3+ WRs): F          3+ WRs: D

--> 5-2 (5 DL, 2 LB, 2 CB, FS, SS) <--
Strengths: Up the middle runs, Passes out of the Big formation
Weakness:  Screens and Flats, Sweeps and Option plays, 3+ WR sets are also a
           problem, Watch out for the deep ball, and any timing pass route
Report Card - Overall: B-
vs run (Big):    A                 vs pass (Big):    B+         Big:    A-
vs run (Normal): A-                vs pass (Normal): D          Normal: B-
vs run (3+ WRs): B                 vs pass (3+ WRs): D-         3+ WRs: D

--> Goaline (5 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, SS) <--
Strengths: Up the middle runs, Passes out of the Big formation, Off tackle
Weakness:  3+ WRs is death, If your defense in pinched down Sweeps and
           Option plays, If the QB has time Playaction
Report Card - Overall: B-
vs run (Big):    A+                vs pass (Big):    A          Big:    A+
vs run (Normal): A+                vs pass (Normal): B          Normal: B+
vs run (3+ WRs): A+                vs pass (3+ WRs): F          3+ WRs: D

<Tip #4> --> Special Teams <--
I haven't experimented with these much. One tip I do have is to pick a punt
return to the small side of the field when playing against the CPU because
your return will be a lot better. Going for the block hasn't really helped
my punt return yardage like in last year's game.

<Tip #5> *** Know your Coverage!!! ***
Don't be afraid to use the Coaches Camera (R2 pre-snap) to know what your
coverage is. Keep in mind that your coverage might change if your opponent
uses motion or audibles. As you get used to this, you'll be ready to take on
other human players.


*** Defensive Play Calling ***
I don't want to give any of my secrets out, but I figured for this FAQ to be
complete I need to at least include some comments about the formations and how to
use them effectively. Only use these at your own risk and against the situations
listed in ().


*** Running the 3-4 ***
Not many people like to run the 3-4 online because it has the possibility to
give up some big plays. The 3-4 gives you great protection against the underneath
pass plays while putting up a fearce opposition to most running plays. Watch out
for anything that gives the QB time and make sure your LBs can tackle.

(When to use)
- 1st Down: If you are afraid of your opponent's TE or RB/FB catching a quick
pass, or your opponent is using the middle of the field a lot to pass. I wouldn't
recommend the 3-4 if you are expecting a run.
- 2nd Down and 8-12 yards: Most teams won't try and get it all in one play at
this point. You can afford to give up 3-5 yards on a run, but you don't want to
give up the drag or slant routes over the middle without having someone there to
lay a hit.
- 3rd Down and 3-5 yards: You might be able to stop a run for less than 3 yards,
but you really want to cover the RB, FB and TE tightly and still get good
pressure on the QB with your pass rush.

(Against what formations?)
- (vs. Anyone) any Normal formation: I-Form, Weak-I, Strong-I, and so forth
- (vs. CPU) 5 WR and 4 WR: Shotgun and Empty Backfield (see Tip #6)

<Tip #6> <Q> --> How do I defend those 5 WR sets? <--
Well I found that the CPU when faced with a 3-4 and running a pass play out of
4 and 5 WR sets almost always throws an INT right to your FS if you pick this
zone defense: 3-4 Cover 2 and then spread out your LBs. All you have to do is
control your FS and strafe back and towards the closest sideline and 8 out of 10
times the CPU QB will throw right to you. Now all you have to do is make the INT
using the triangle button. I got 5 INTs in one game with a weak FS to prove it
and then the next game got 4 INTs.

Be careful with this tactic however if you can't get any pressure on the QB with
only 4 guys rushing then you might be better off in a Dime or Nickel defense.

<update: 3.0>
*** Defending those 5 WR sets ***
Well after playing against more people online and seeing 4-5 WRs sets quite a bit,
I have more things to share. In order to really bait the CPU controlled QB into
throwing to your FS's side, cheat down and in a bit before the snap and really haul
to your zone after the snap. 3-4 spread zone defense works well against people who
love to spread the field because Dime just doesn't put guys in position to make

I must warn you though, 3-4 zone against a spread formation with someone who has a
good running QB will fail badly. Usually these type of players have no real skill
though and can be defended by blitzing a DB or two while playing zone. If your
opponent really knows what he is doing, you had better mix it up and have your
audibles ready.


*** Running the 4-3 ***
If you prefer to have 4 DL on every play and clog up the middle to take away
the other team's running game, then you should consider perfecting the 4-3.
Good LBs are hard to find and DL are so much bigger and stronger on average
than LBs. This allows you to slow down running plays up the middle. There
really isn't anything sneaky about the 4-3, it is just a strength vs. strength
type defense. If you think you DL can out-muscle your opponent's OL, the go
with the 4-3.

Many players use the 4-3 online because it contains a lot of good blitzes. I
stay away from the 4-3 in this year's version only because the LBs aren't very
smart and the outside run is so hard to stop in a 4-3. Many online players move
their players all around to stop the outside run so they can take advantage of
the 4-3.

(When to use?)
- 1st Down: If you want lots of pressure and you aren't worried about someone
running the option around the corner or going deep on you then the 4-3 is your
- 3rd Down and inches-3 yards: You need to stop the inside run and still keep
your opponent from braking one big with a quick pass or an outside run.
- 4th Down and inches-3 yards: The inside run is what you want to guard against.
- Goaline: If you don't want to use the Goaline defense, the 4-3 can be another

(Against what formations?)
- (vs. Anyone) Goaline
- (vs. Anyone) any Normal formation: I-Form, Weak-I, Strong-I, and so forth


*** Running a Nickel ***
So you want an extra DB? Try using the Nickel defense. This is my personal
favorite since I can usually get pretty good DBs. This defense covers well
and also spreads your players out nicely for blitzing possibilities. The
Nickel could be the only way to slow down those pesky Singleback 3 WR
formations. If your guys can tackle, the Nickel can be a very effective
way of slowing down someone who runs the option a lot.

<Q> --> How do I use the Nickel to defend an option style team? <--
The extra DB should be lined up on the same side that you think the option
is going to go. If you don't know which way, line the extra DB up on the
strong side of the formation and spread your LBs out. Now when you opponent
runs the option even with a speedy QB, you'll have the outside speed needed
to force the QB to make his decision early in the play.

The key to stopping the option is to make the QB make his decision as soon
as possible. You'll need speed on the outside and good tacklers trailing the
play in order to be effective. Force you opponent to run to the side until
they run out of room. If the play does turn up field, chances are the pitch
is no longer an option, so go after the ball.

(When to use?)
- 1st Down: Trouble slowing down the option and you just know that your opponent
is going to run the option on 1st down. Trouble stopping a speedy running back
who gets to the outside a lot.
- 2nd Down and less than 10: Usually a good situation for the offense to run or
pass, a Nickel can cover both well enough to force a 3rd down.
- 3rd Down and 5-10 yards: The Nickel contains the outside run while giving you
a good base defense to cover any short pass plays.

(Against what formations?)
- (vs. Anyone) any Normal formation: I-Form, Weak-I, Strong-I, and so forth
- (vs. Anyone) any possible option formation, Shotgun with 2 RBs
- (vs. Anyone) Singleback 3 WR or anything like it
- (vs. Anyone) Any stacked formation with 2 or more WRs on the same side of the

<update: 3.0>
*** Stacked Formations ***
You know the formations, 3 WRs on the same side of the field (Shotgun Bunch for
example) or 2 WR on the same side (I-Form Twins). These formations are trouble to
defend with a zone because of the stacked formation and man defense will get
torched by any good player. So what to do? Try a Nickel zone and put your extra DB
on the same side as the stacked side. This will give you a little extra bit of
coverage that might result in confusion or a turnover.


*** Running a Dime ***
You know a deep pass is coming and you want as many DBs in the game that you
can get. The Dime defense spreads the field out with 6 DBs and allows you
to effectively take away any big plays through the air. Don't expect to get
a lot of pressure on the QB unless you have a strong DL. With NCAA 2004's
updated AI for your DBs, you won't be giving up many miracle "3rd down and 20"

Many players use Dime to blitz because you can blitz some very fast DBs and
still cover pretty well. This can be a good strategy, but if your opponent
expects you to do this, they can adjust and come up with a big play. I
suggest mixing it up if you like to run a Dime defense. This way you can bait
your opponent into a mistake.

(When to use?)
- 1st Down: Your opponent pretty much throws every time. Try mixing in a few
blitzes out of the Dime to force the issue.
- 2nd, 3rd, 4th Down and 10+: If you just want to make sure there isn't a big
play. This bend but don't break style won't get many turnovers, but it does the
job in long yardage situations.

(Against what formations?)
- (vs. Anyone) any 4+ WR formation
- (vs. Anyone) Singleback 3 WR or anything like it
- (vs. Anyone) use against Normal formations only if you know your opponent is
going to throw

<update: 3.0>
For some reason the Dime just isn't very effective unless you like to blitz your
extra DBs. A full zone in the Dime package is just too easy to go down the middle
on. I would recommend only using this formation if you intend to blitz the extra
DBs or to defend the extremely deep pass.


*** Running a 4-4 ***
Need a little help stopping the run? Putting 8 men in the box with 4 DL and
4 LBs may be the solution. This defense is very risky, but puts a lot of
pressure on your opponent. You can pretty much count on stopping the run for
3 or less yards, but it is the pass that is difficult to stop.

You'll see a lot of 4-4 defense online by blitzing players. I don't recommend
following that style of play because it can be beat fairly easily. The 4-4
can be effective in putting a lot of pressure on the QB to make quick
decisions. The 4-4 also stops most running plays for less than 3 yards. Be
warned that if you do blitz the house, you are probably going to get burned
to a wide open pass receiver.

Use the 4-4 as a change of pace defensively. Lets say you have been playing
Nickel all game and your opponent has learned how to beat it, try throwing a
4-4 at him and see what happens. Some players get used to having time to
throw and when you take it away suddenly, they might make a mistake which
could lead to a turnover.

(When to use?)
- 1st Down: Can't stop the inside run? Try the 4-4 on 1st down and see if that
- 2nd, 3rd, 4th Down less than 10: Want to make your opponent think twice about
running the football? Bring a 4-4 and be ready for an audible.
- 3rd, 4th and short: You will definitely want to find a way to stop the inside
run in this situation.

(Against what formations?)
- (vs. Anyone) any Normal or Big formation
- (vs. Anyone) use against other formations only if you know your opponent is
going to run


*** Running a 5-2 ***
Have a strong DL and want to have an extra big man in the game without giving
up too much? The 5-2 still has 2 safeties and gives you 5 DL to work with.
Believe it or not, I have run across people who use the 5-2 very effectively
online. Since there are very few actual plays to choose from in the 5-2 part
of the playbook, I usually only use the 5-2 as a change of pace to mix things

Be careful not to let your opponent get to the outside against the 5-2 because
you sren't going to have the speed to make the plays out there.

(When to use?)
- 1st Down: Use the 5-2 to change things up and get an extra DL in the game.
If you just want to clog the middle to stop the inside run.
- 3rd, 4th and short: Don't want to give up the middle? Pinch those 5 DL
inside to take it away from your opponent.

(Against what formations?)
- (vs. Anyone) any Normal or Big formation that isn't stacked to one side

<update: 3.0>
You might want to use a 5-2 style defense against Normal offensive formations
that don't stack the WRs to one side. Think of the 5-2 like a Nickel without the
extra DB and you'll know how to use it.


*** Running a Goaline ***
Goaline is a strength on strength battle. If you use Goaline in any other
situation, expect to get burned. Watch for a quick pass to the TE and stuff
the middle. I rarely use this defense unless it is completely obvious that my
opponent is going to run up the gut.

(When to use?)
- 3rd, 4th and short: Clog the middle, watch the TEs and hope that your DL is
stronger than your opponent's OL.

(Against what formations?)
- (vs. Anyone) any Normal or Big formation in a short yardage situation


*** Styles of Defense **
<update : 2.0>
<Q> --> Should I play zone or man defense? <--
Usually this is an easy question to answer because previous versions of NCAA
Football and Madden pretty much forced you to use man coverage because the
defensive AI gave up too many big plays when in a full zone. This year's game
actually flipped that trend around completely. The defensive AI puts your
cover guys in their correct zones and you'll see a lot more passes being
intercepted and knocked away in zone coverage.

Believe it or not, you are actually more vulnerable to the deep ball when
playing man coverage. A good zone must be put together with a good pass rush
though, because the zone will eventually break down and your opponent will
pick you apart. Look at where you opponent likes to throw the ball and adjust
your zone to that area. I am sure that your INT totals with benefit from
just switching to a zone in obvious passing situations.

<update: 3.0>
*** To Cover 2 or not To Cover 2 ***
What is a Cover 2? How about Cover 3 or Cover 4? When should I use these zones?
Here is a great way to decide what kind of zone to use:

Zone      Formation            Strength                       Weakness
Cover 2     3-4        middle short, deep outside     deep middle, short outside
Cover 3     3-4       decent deep middle and outside         short outside
Cover 4     3-4          deep middle and outside            anything short

Remember that the more guys you blitz, the worse your short coverage is going to
be. If you aren't worried about the short pass, then blitz away! For some reason
the CPU controlled QB hardly ever throw to the deep middle making the Cover 2 the
choice for your pass defense needs. Against online players, you need to mix it up
and watch for those players who love the deep ball.

<update : 2.0>
<Q> --> Should I play bump and run or not? <--
This one is completely up to you. I personally believe that you should never
play bump and run unless you can get good pressure on the QB on a regular basis.
Many players online live and die by the bump and run because they blitz the
house quite a bit. Try both approaches, you'll be surprised how well this works
when you really need a stop and your opponent isn't used to dealing with it all
game long.

<update: 3.0>
If your opponent has a history of throwing up the long ball, please don't play
bump and run because you will get beat 8 times out of 10. I have playing many
online players whose whole gameplan rests on the deep ball and praying that you
bump and run and come with the blitz. Surprise guys, I am back in coverage!


*** Defensive Quick Charts ***

...coming soon...


*** Recruiting a Defensive Team ***
This is the same as last year's version...

Since recruiting only matters on who wants to come to your school and is not
based on draft picks like the pros, I will focus on what you need to get as
a team.

Remember that the only change from last year's game as far as recruiting goes
is the option of what you pitch to get a player. You can choose from program
prestige, playing time, location, and coaching style. Pick the one you think
that recruit would like the most and if you don't get him that week, look as
his info so you know whether to change it up or not (press select on the
recruit to see his info).

DE : Defensive Ends (3-4 players)
Try to recruit guys with <5.0 sec 40 times. Tall guys 6'4'' or taller with
a weight of 260+. Most likely you want pass rushers, unless you get a 5 star
"blue chip" DE who is a run stopper. If your guy benches 400+ and squats 500+,
you've got one of the best DE I've seen. Some of my best DEs are a little bit
weaker 340-380 lbs bench 450+ squat, but have the speed to make up for it.

<update: 3.0>
*** Using the ack Technique ***
If you want to use the sack technique described above, you are going to need
some DEs with speed. Look for guys with under 5.0 sec 40 times (the faster
the better). Forget tackling ability and power since you could always use this
guy as a pass rusher only.

DT : Defensive Tackles (4 players)
Get the biggest, strongest guy you can get. 500+ lbs squat is a great and I
would say no less than 300 lbs weight. Forget speed for these guys, they should
be pure run stoppers intent on clogging the middle especially if you like to
run a 4-3 or Nickel defense like I do.

OLB : Outside Linebackers (2 ROLB + 2 LOLB)
4.7 sec 40 times at least and a high GPA are important. You want your OLBs to
be balanced in tackling and speed so they can react to any situation. Speed is
important both in blitzing and stopping those sweep and option type plays.
Don't be afraid to go overboard when recruiting OLBs and ILBs since they
also play well on special teams.

ILB : Inside Linebackers (4 ILB)
Yes you should have 4 ILBs on your team at all times. Get one very speedy
ILB with great hands. (4.5 sec 40 if you can find one) He will be great in
Dime situations and on special teams. Get another ILB who is strong almost
400 lbs bench and has a decent GPA (3.0+). Put him into your Goaline
situations. Your normal ILBs should be a balance of strength and speed
(4.8 sec 40 and 300-340 lbs. bench with 400+ squat). GPA is ultra important
for your 2 balanced ILBs, don't recruit guys with less than a 3.2 GPA. These
ILBs, you can use for Nickel, 4-3, and 3-4 situations. ILB is the most
important position on your defense and having specialized guys to back up
your starters is a great idea.

CB : Cornerbacks (5 players)
You should have at least 5 CBs on your team. Nickel and Dime defenses are
greatly improved if you have a deep bench at the CB position. I rarely
recruit a CB who is shorter than 6'0''. Think about the long pass and
height advantages. Sure there might be a 5'7'' with blazing speed and
great hands, but he'll just get man-handled by the bigger WRs. Less than
4.5 sec 40 times are necessary for a great CB along with good hands
(if you can get a player like this)! If you like to blitz out of the
Nickel, you might consider recruiting a CB who is a hard-hitter. Strong
CBs can jar the ball loose from WRs also, even though they might not
be able to stop the pass from getting there.

FS : Free Safety (2 players)
A good balanced player is what you are looking for here. Less than 4.6 sec
40 time, 3.0+ GPA, 300+ lbs. bench, 6'1'' or taller, and good hands. If you
can get all this, go for it. Make sure you at least meet the speed and GPA
requirements you want.

SS : Strong Safety (1-2 players)
Since I control the SS most of the time I don't care about his GPA as much.
Instead I want decent speed, less than 4.7 sec 40 should do. Tackling
ability is the biggest thing I look for. This translates to strength, 300+
lbs. bench and 350+ lbs. squat. I also look for height, 6'1'' to 6'4'' so
that I can bat away those deep passes. Your skills for controlling the
SS should make up for the weakness in awareness (GPA) and speed.

This makes the total for defensive players 25, leaving you 30 spots open
for other players. This should be more than enough to make a good team.
25 Defense   : 4 DE, 4 DT, 4 OLB, 4 ILB, 5 CB, 2 FS, 2 SS
28 Offensive : 3 QB, 4 RB, 2 FB, 6 WR, 2 TE, 11 OL (4 G, 4 T, 2 C + 1)
2 Special    : 1 K, 1 P