Title - NCAA Football 2004 Recruiting Guide Platform - PlayStation 2TM Version - 2.0 Author - "DTheaterFan" Greg Necastro E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org Updated - August 11h, 2003 ©2003 Greg Necastro. All Rights Reserved. Table of Contents i. Legal 1. Introduction 2. New in 2004 3. Getting Started - Ending the Season 4. Off Season Schedule 5. Players leaving 5.1 Keeping Underclassmen 6. Recruiting 6.1 Team Overview 6.2 Recruiting Reports 6.3 Viewing Reports 6.3.1. Quarterbacks 6.3.2. Halfbacks 6.3.3. Fullbacks 6.3.4. Wide Receivers 6.3.5. Tight Ends 6.3.6. Offensive Linemen - Tackles, Guards, Centers 6.3.7. Defensive Ends and Tackles 6.3.8. Linebackers 6.3.9. Defensive Backs - Cornerbacks, free safeties, strong safteies 6.3.10. Kickers and Punters 6.3.11. Additional recruit information 6.4 Making an offer 6.5 Moving to the next week 6.6 Commitments 6.7 Target information 6.8 Continue recruiting 6.9 Recruiting recap 7. Training 8. Cut Players 9. Set Depth Chart 10. Start New Season 11. Preseason options 11.1 Custom schedule 11.2 Redshirt players 12 Game on i. The legal stuff The latest version of this guide can be viewed and downloaded at www.gamefaqs.com. It is provided for private use at no cost on the following websites: www.gamefaqs.com If you have found this guide on any site other than this, please notify me. 1. Introduction Most sports games today offer some sort of franchise mode. They give the player the ability to not just play a season with their favorite team, but to evolve the team over multiple seasons. In the pro games, this involves trading, drafting, re-signing, and releasing players. No matter what sport, the overall concepts are the same. In the college world, however, taking control of a team presents a completely different challenge. NCAA Football 2004 Dynasty mode is one of the best aspects of any sports game. This guide has been prepared to help walk you through the off-season process of NCAA Football. It will allow you to navigate through the various menus and screens in the game. This guide does not provide you with the "answers" and "tricks" to recruiting. The reason is simple. I don't know. How do you get those top choices on your team? What's the best way to allocate recruiting points? Beats me. I've included my opinions and observations in this guide, but by no means are they the guarantees to a successful recruiting class. The only answers I can offer is to play the game and go through several off-seasons. Experiment with the off-season mode. Maybe you will learn the best ways to recruit. 2. New in 2004 There have been a handful of changes to the recruiting process in this years version. There's more depth in this year's version and it will take more planning to get the full benefit from your recruiting effort. Changes in the game: * Menus and screens have been given a cosmetic upgrade. They look better than last year and some have additional information. * Returning Players report has been added. Now you can view the players on your roster that are returning from last season in the recruiting process. In last year's game, you had to exit the recruiting menu to view your roster. * Cost for recruiting players has been increased. Last year, there were three sets of charges to recruit a player depending on the prospects distance from your school. This year, there are five sets of charges. The two new ones are higher costs for players further away. * Recruiting Pitch. In addition to visiting and calling a prospect, you can now specify a particular aspect of your school to try and persuade the prospect to sign with your team. * Recruiting points decrease each week. Every week, you have less total recruiting points to use. * Prospect Stats/Comments improve. The feedback you receive when your are actively recruiting a player is better and more useful than last year. * Interest matches your style. If you have a top rated defense, you will see more defensive players interested in your school. If the majority of your offense uses the option, it will be harder to find wide receivers. 3. Getting Started - Ending the Season After the final bowl game is played and a National Champion is crowned, the playing season comes to an end. But, before the off-season begins, there are a few things you can do. Immediately after the last game, you may be presented a few options you have to address before you can continue. You may be offered a new contract, a contract extension, or fired by the school based on your performance. If one of these occurs, you will have to make a decision before you can proceed. If you're fired, of course, you'll have to find a new team. Your team may also be invited to join a new conference. Again, it is up to you to decide. Generally, the idea is you will be invited to join a more prestigious conference. If you win the National Title with Ohio State, the MAC is not going to waste time inviting you to their conference. After these decisions are made, or if none appear, you will be prompted to start the off season. If you say yes, you will not be able to review any of the past season stats and rankings. So, if you want to see some final numbers, don't move on to off season. Also, if you wish to leave your team before your contract expires, you must do it before the off season starts. You can resign your position by going into the Coach Strategy menu and then select your new team. Leaving before your contract ends will cost you one prestige star. You can start the off season by selecting Play Week from the main menu, where you will be prompted to start the off season. Once you've taken care of these needs, you can start the off season mode. 4. Off Season Schedule When the Off season schedule appears, it will look similar to the season schedule. Instead of play week, the top choice is Off Season Schedule. This operates similar to the play week option and is what you use to progress through the off season. Also available is a Recruiting Recap option. This is a report that is created after recruiting is complete. You cannot access it until recruiting is done. Select the Off Season Schedule and the next screen will present the 6 steps in the off season process. 1. Players leaving 2. Recruiting 3. Training 4. Cut Players 5. Set Depth Chart 6. Start New Season To move through the off season, you start with the first item, players leaving, and then proceed down the list. Going to the next step completes the previous steps. I'll explain this better in the next session. 5. Players leaving Press X on the players leaving option and you will be presented with the guys who are not coming back next year. All your seniors are leaving. They've used up their eligibility and can't play anymore college ball. Also, some of your top underclassman may be considering leaving. The screen display should look familiar. It is very similar to the player screens in the regular season. Also, you will see this format in many of the recruiting screens (explained next section). At the top left it will say "Players leaving". On the upper left side will be the players name, school name, a trophy icon if the player has won one (Heisman, best QB, etc.). On the upper right side will be the players year (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior), position, height and weight. Below that will be some of the players top stats, if he has any worth mentioning. In the middle of the screen you will see the school name on the left and positons on the right. By default, it will display your school and all positions. You can use the L1 and R1 buttons to view different schools and the L2 and R2 to look at specific positions. At the bottom will be a list of the players leaving your school. You can highlight any player and press select to view his career stats. 5.1 Keeping Underclassmen Another new feature in NCAA 2004 is the ability to try and convince your underclassmen to stay in school for another year when they are listed on the players leaving report. As you review your players leaving list, you may have some non seniors leaving. Generally, the player who is going to leave school early is one of your top players. Why would someone who gets little playing time or didn't have a good year leave before their senior year? They certainly won't be drafted in the pros. So, if you find that you have younger players thinking about leaving, you have a shot at getting them to stay. Highlight the player who is leaving and press the X button to bring up the Talk into Staying window. At the top of this window is an area titled Lean. This is a bar graph representation of the players feeling. On the left is the word leave. On the right is Stay. The bar represents the players attitude to leaving school. The more the bar is filled towards stay, the better chance you have of convincing him to play another year. Underneath the bar are four options you have available. If you played NCAA 2003, they will look familiar (and you'll see them later as well). The options are: Visit - Head Coach, Visit - Assistant Coach, Call - Head Coach, Call - Assistant Coach. To perform each activity will cost you recruiting points from your week one total; V-HC (32), V-AC (16), C-HC (8), C-AC (4). You can select as many options as you like. Just remember, your recruiting points for week one will be reduced. The number of points you have will be shown at the bottom of the window. So, you need to use your points wisely. You don't want to use up all your recruiting points on a bunch of players leaving early and then have nothing available for new prospects which will put you behind in the recruiting race. Once you have selected your options, select the continue option. You will then get an instant answer if the player is staying or going. You can then continue this process for any other underclassmen on you leaving list. When you finished reviewing the list of players leaving, you can continue to the recruiting phase. While viewing the players leaving report, press the start button to go forward. A window will pop up giving you three options. Continue to recruiting, Export Draft Class and Continue, and Cancel. If you continue to recruiting, all the players leaving are removed from the rosters and the prospect list is generated. Export draft class will save your draft class onto a memory card that you can later import into Madden 2004. It is important that if you want to use your college players in Madden, you must do it here. After you select either option, those players leaving are removed from the game and cannot be recovered, unless you reset the game without saving the dynasty. Also, you cannot export your draft class to Madden 2003. Only 2004 will work. 6. Recruiting This is the heart of the off season process. Therefore, it is also the longest process. Once you have completed the players leaving section, you will be brought to the Recruiting Central screen. In the middle of the screen is a map of the US with your school's home state highlighted. On the left, you will see your school name and conference. To the right, last seasons record and school prestige. Right of the map will be some text that reads 'Week 1 of 5'. As you progress through the recruiting process, this will change to show what week you are in. There are 5 weeks in the recruiting season. You can use the d-pad to cycle through the states. At the bottom of the screen, are three additional options; square button for help, circle button for team overview, and x button for recruiting reports. The help shows you how to navigate through the screen. It does not provide gameplay help. 6.1 Team Overview The team overview is a very important screen to understand. Press and hold the circle button and the team overview will appear. You have to hold the button to view the information. Once you let go, it disappears and you will be back at the previous screen. The team overview gives you a good all-in-one overview of your roster. The overview is a large chart of each position and the number of players you have. Looking down the left column, you will see the positions list. They are; Offense: QB, HB, FB, WR, TE, T, G, C, Defense: DE, DT, OLB, MLB, CB, FS, SS, K, P. (I will assume that you understand football shorthand) Looking at the columns, they are broken down into two areas. At the left, are you returning players. The column headings will be Rating, FR (Freshman), SO (Sophomore), JR (Junior), SR (Senior), and Total. The Rating is an overall letter grade ranking of your players at that position. The FR, SO, JR, SR columns indicate how many players at each position are on your roster and what their grade is. Remember, the grade relates to eligibility. Seniors have one year left to play. Freshman are players who you redshirted the previous season and have all 4 years of their eligibility. To the right of the Total column, there are three columns related to New Prospects. There is a checkmark, bulls eye, and the last column is labeled needs. The checkmark indicates how many prospects have committed to your team and will be on your roster for next season. Once a player commits, he cannot be removed from the roster during recruiting. You can cut him later. The target column lists the number of players you have extended offers to. When you look at this report before you start recruiting, both of these columns will be zero. The last column is the most important one on the report. If there is a number in the needs column, it means you do not have enough players at that position. You must either recruit a player to fill the need or you will receive a walk-on at the end of recruiting. Walk ons are generally lower level players. Any position that you have a need, that line will be colored red. If you have targeted a player to fill a need, but he hasn't accepted yet, the line will be colored black, but you will still see a number in the needs column. Once a player(s) commits and fills all the needs for a position, the number in the needs column will be reduced. If the needs is listed as zero, you do not have to recruit players for that position. Of course you can, if you want, but you will not need to receive a walk on later. Needs are broken down like this: 4 players - WR, CB 3 players - HB, T, G, DE, OLB, MLB 2 players - QB, FB, TE, C, DT, FS, SS 1 player - P, K Looking at the needs, your minimum roster will have 42 players. The maximum is 55. NOTE: Here is a difference between the game and real life. In the game, if you have a need, it must be filled. For example, if you have 2 HB (need 3) and do not recruit one, you will receive a walk on HB that you cannot cut. In the real world, colleges often recruit players and later move them to different positions. You cannot do this in the game. If you need a HB, you must recruit a HB. You cannot recruit a safety and convert him to HB (although you could do this on the depth chart). Any needs at the end of recruiting, will be filled with uncuttable walk ons. Later, I'll explain the cut process in more detail. At the bottom of the team overview screen, is the Available scholarships number. You start every off season with 25 scholarships you can offer. When you target a player, he receives one of the available scholarships. If you decide later to stop pursuing him, that scholarship is returned to the pool. Once a player commits, that scholarship is locked and cannot be returned. What this does is limit the number of players you can recruit to 25. In other words, you cannot recruit 50 players and select 25. 6.2 Recruiting Reports Overall, all the recruiting reports have the same format. The difference is that each report filters the information in different ways. There are six reports you can activate by pressing the X button from the Recruiting Central screen. [State] Prospects - All the players from a particular state or Canada. This defaults to your teams home state as indicated in the map. You could switch to any other state by using the D-Pad. Generally, schools recruit better in their home state. So, the need to look at other state reports in the recruiting process isn't very helpful as other reports. Current Targets - Lists the players you have extended offers to. This report is blank until you target your first player. Over time, this report will also show the players who are coming to your school and the players you tried to recruit but decided to go elsewhere. National Top 100 - The 100 best players in the recruiting class. These are the 5 star, blue chips. All Prospects - Every player that can be recruited. Interested prospects - Players who have your school in their top 3 choices. These are the players you have the best chance at recruiting. Returning players - This report lists all the players on your current roster. This is a source of information you may wish to refer to during the recruiting process. 6.3 Viewing Reports Whatever report you use, the information is presented the same way, which makes things very easy. Select any report (except the returning players) and press the x button to view it. The screen will look like this. At the top left will be the report name. Underneath that will be the prospect's name and, below that, their hometown. If you look at the bottom half of the report, you will see a line item highlighted. It is that prospect's information that is being displayed at the top. If you press up or down on the d-pad, you will see the highlight bar move to the next player and the information at the top will change. Below the hometown, there may be a blue EA logo. This symbolizes that this player is a blue-chip prospect and is one of the top 100 recruits in the nation. All players on the National Top 100 report will have this icon. On the top right of the report will be the players position and rank. For example, say that it says QB-5. That means that this player is the number 5 ranked quarterback in the recruiting pool. There are 4 higher ranked quarterback prospects. Below the position is the players height and weight. Below that is his caliber represented by stars (1-5). Blue chips will be 5 star players. You can filter the report to display specific positions by using the L2 and R2 buttons (indicated halfway down on the right side). In the middle of the screen at the top will be a white helmet. This represents that a player is not committed to a school. Eventually, this will change to the team helmet of the school the player has committed to. Also, information will be displayed under the helmet once recruiting begins. The bottom half of the report will list the prospects available based on the report you selected and the position filter setting. The columns from left to right are: player name, position, caliber, and top 3 schools. The report is sorted on caliber of player, starting with the highest ranked players. The top 3 schools are where the player has the highest interest. These schools can change depending on how the player is recruited during the recruiting process. If you press the select button, a more detailed report on the highlighted player is displayed. On the left side will be the players name, hometown, blue chip icon (if applicable), and position and type of player. On the right side is the position rank, height and weight, and caliber. In the middle of the screen will be specific player stats. This will change depending on the position the player plays. The next few sections will provide position specific detail. 6.3.1. Quarterbacks Type of player: Pocket passer - prefers to sit back and throw and handoff. Not good with option. Scrambler - good for options and rollout passes. Balanced - decent with either style. Not necessarily better at one or the other. A QB with (LH) displayed next to the type means he thows with his left hand. Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Arm strength - how far he can throw. Represented as a grade (A, B, C, D) Pass accuracy - higher the grade, higher completion percentage. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. GPA - intelligence. I don't know what specific ratings the stats refer to, but you can get a general idea. A quarterback with a high GPA probably has good awareness skills. 6.3.2. Halfbacks Type of players: Speed - fast, not very powerful Power - strong, hard to tackle. lacks breakaway speed Balanced - equal portion of speed and power Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. Hands - catch and holds the ball. Represented by a letter grade. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.3. Fullbacks Type of players: Blocking - good at leading for the halfback Receiving - good at catching passes Balanced - stats are fairly equal, no specific strength Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. Hands - catch and holds the ball. Represented by a letter grade. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.4. Wide Receivers Type of players: Speed - fast, not very powerful Possession - holds on to the ball, makes the tough catches Balanced - stats are fairly equal, no specific strength Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. Hands - catch and holds the ball. Represented by a letter grade. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.5. Tight Ends Type of players: Blocking - good at leading for the halfback Receiving - good at catching passes Balanced - stats are fairly equal, no specific strength Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. Hands - catch and holds the ball. Represented by a letter grade. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.6. Offensive Linemen - Tackles, Guards, Centers Type of players: It looks like there may be a glitch in the game because I checked every offensive lineman in the recruiting class and they were all listed as balanced. Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.7. Defensive Ends and Tackles Type of players: Pass rusher - Strong skills at rushing the quarterback. Balanced Run stopper - Strong skills at stopping the running game. Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.8. Linebackers Type of players: Coverage - strong skills in pass coverage. Run stopper - strong skills in stopping the run. Balanced Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. Hands - catch and holds the ball. Represented by a letter grade. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.9. Defensive Backs - Cornerbacks, free safeties, strong safteies Type of players: Coverage - strong skills in pass coverage. Hard hitter - good strength and tackling skills. Balanced Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Bench - strength related. Squat - strength related. Vertical - jumping ability. Hands - catch and holds the ball. Represented by a letter grade. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.10. Kickers and Punters Type of players: Clutch - highly accurate. Sporadic - occasionally makes bad kicks. Balanced Stats listed: 40 time - speed. Kick power - kicking distance. Represented by a letter grade. Kick accuracy - kicks the ball where aimed. Represented by a letter grade. Vertical - jumping ability. Hands - catch and holds the ball. Represented by a letter grade. GPA - intelligence. 6.3.11. Additional recruit information In the lower half of the detail report, there is some additional information about the player. At the left is the interest level. This is the player's desire to play at your school. The levels are very low, low, average, high, and very high. Naturally, the higher level of interest a player has, the better chance you will have of recruiting him. At the right, will be the players top 3 schools. If your school is listed, you'll have the best chance of recruiting this player. At the same time, just because you school is not listed, it doesn't mean you can't convince him to come to your school. Below this information is some blank space. Once you target a player and go through a week of recruiting, information will be placed her about the player. I'll give more detail about this a little later. 6.4 Making an offer Now that you've looked at some of the reports and have found some players you would like to add to your team, it's time to make an offer. In general, players with a higher interest level are your best chances for success. Players with an average interest are tough and low and very low interest are long shots. When you've decided on a player to recruit, you want to highlight him from any of the reports. Once the player is highlighted, press the X button to bring up the recruit player window. At the top you will see the players name and interest level. The interest level is presented as a bar graph. The bar fills from left to right, so the further it is filled, the more interest the player has in your school. To the left of the interest bar will be an arrow. This arrow represents the weekly change in the players interest. In the first week, every player will have an <--> arrow. This means that there was no change in interest. As you progress through recruiting, this may change to an up arrow (increased interest) or a down arrow (decreased interest). What I've noticed is that a player's interest increases when you make him a target and decreases when he isn't (especially if he has your school in his top 3). This is just a generalization. If you try to recruit a player with very low interest in your school, there may not be any change in his interest level no matter how much recruiting you do. Below the interest level, there are four recruiting activities: Visit - Head Coach, Visit - Assistant Coach, Call - Head Coach, Call - Assistant Coach. Each of these options cost a certain amount of recruiting points. The points necessary to perform each option are based on their importance and the distance the player is from your school. A visit by the head coach costs the most because it can have the most benefit. Recruiting a player across the country costs more points than a local prospect. Recruiting a player in your home state costs the least. The further you move away from your state, the more points it will cost. I don't know the exact determination for when the points increase, but I do know there are 5 levels of recruiting point costs. I would guess that the highest point requirements occur when you are recruiting across the country (ex. you are Florida and are trying to recruit a player in California). Here are the point levels: Recruit option Distance 1 2 3 4 5 Visit - Head Coach 8 16 24 32 40 Visit - Assistant Coach 4 8 12 16 20 Call - Head Coach 2 4 6 8 10 Call - Assistant Coach 1 2 3 4 5 As you can see, it takes less points for the head coach to visit a player in the same state than for him to call a player who is extremely far away. Below the recruiting activities is a new feature in 2004, recruiting pitch. Now, you can emphasize specific aspects of your program to a recruit. There are four pitches to choose from. Program prestige - Use this if you're school have a high prestige rating (4-6 stars). Location - A good choice for recruiting local players or a school located in a popular area. Playing time - Tells the player that he is going to be on the field right away. Coaching style - Good for when the player's position is one of the strengths of your program. I had luck with this when I was recruiting defensive players and my previous team was the number 1 ranked defense. Once you select your recruiting activities and pitch, you can select the continue option located below the pitch. Below that is the withdraw offer option. Use this if you no longer wish to recruit this player. At the bottom is a line with the number of recruiting points you have left for the week. Now that you've selected a player, chosen your options, and confirmed you choices by selecting continue from the recruit player window, you will return to the report you had previously selected. You will notice a couple of changes. The background for the player will be red and the word target will appear below the white helmet. Also, on the right side, you will see the number of recruiting points allocated to that player. That's the process to recruit a player. You would now repeat this process until you have targeted all the players you wish to recruit or used up all your available scholarships or recruiting points. You get new recruiting points every week, so try to use them all up each week. As you target players, you can access the Current Targets report to see all of them in one location. Also, remember to look at the team overview overlay (circle button) to make sure you aren't neglecting any positions. 6.5 Moving to the next week Once you have made all your recruiting choices for the week, press the triangle button to get back to the Recruiting Central screen (the one with the map). Press the start button to begin the week's recruiting. An option window will appear with three choices. Advance to next week is the option to select. This will allow the computer to execute your recruiting options and advance to the next week. The simulate all weeks should only be used if you are using CPU assisted recruiting (turn this on from the coach options menu). Personally, I've never used CPU recruiting. The third option is cancel, if you're not ready to advance. Once you select advance to next week, the computer will process the recruiting plans and prospect responses for every team. If you have any recruiting points or scholarships unused, the computer will offer to assist you in your recruiting and use them. I always say no to this option. 6.6 Commitments When the computer is finished, you will see a window titled Week # Commits. In this window will be a list of players that have committed to your school. They are now part of your school and you do not have to spend any more on recruiting them. Press the X button to close the window and continue. 6.7 Target information Now that a week of recruiting has taken place, you can find some feedback on your recruits. Press the X button to bring up the report menu and select the current target report. You are now at the report showing all the players you have extended an offer to. Starting from the top you see each player that you are pursing that still haven't made a commitment. Start with the first player and press the select button to bring up the player information screen. You will now see some new information. Some of the prospects stats may have changed. If you see a number with a red line through it, that means that the previous information was wrong and a new number will be written next to the old number. For example, say a player had a 40 time of 4.40 listed. After actively recruiting a player, your scouts determine that he is actually faster than his time. The 4.40 will have a redline through it and the new number (ex. 4.30) will appear. Stats can change for the better or worse. If there is a green check mark, that means that stat was accurate. At the bottom of the screen will be comments about the recruit. The comments will have a plus or minus sign to indicate if they are good or bad comments. Many of these comments relate to the players stats. So, from our previous example, there may be a comment that says the player is faster than we thought. There will also be a comment related to the pitch you used. This will let you know if it was successful or not. For example, if you pitched location and there is a comment that the player is not considering your location, then you will want to change your pitch. If your pitch is of interest to the player, you may want to emphasize it again. There is also an indicator on the right side of the screen that says potential. If you see an up arrow in this area, that means that the player may increase his stats significantly while in college. Comments only appear for players you are actively recruiting. 6.8 Continue recruiting After you read the comments on a player, you need to decide if you will still try and recruit him. Go to the recruit player window by pressing the start button. Select your recruiting options and pitch if you are still pursing this player or select withdraw offer to stop recruiting him and select someone else. At the recruit player window, you should notice a change in the interest level indicated by either an up or down arrow. If the arrow points sideways, it means your recruiting effort had no effect on the player. Also, you will see that the number of recruiting points available decreases each week (new for 2004). Now, you go through the recruiting process again like in week one. You will start to see players who now are identified with helmets from the college they've selected. These players can no longer be recruited. If you look at the bottom of the current target report, you will see which recruits selected your school and which ones went elsewhere. Continue the process of recruiting for all five weeks. Take some time to go through the player reports because interest levels will change over the recruiting process. 6.9 Recruiting recap Once the final week of recruiting has been completed, you will see the recruiting recap report. This report will now be available from the main menu for the rest of the off season. The top half of this report shows a quick team overview. On the left is the school name, conference, and any title they won last season (national, conference). On the right side is last years record and the school's prestige. Below this information are the top three recruits for the school. They are listed by name, position, hometown, and prestige. The lower half of the report lists the schools in order of their recruiting class (best to worst). The columns are rank, school, then the number of recruits at each of the caliber rankings (5,4,3,2,1), and the total recruits. This report gives you an idea of which schools got the best talent. Don't worry too much about where you rank. Also, don't get upset when you get out recruited. If you win a national championship with a 3 star caliber school, you are probably still going to lose top prospects to the higher caliber schools and have a lower overall ranking. 7. Training After you finish looking at the recruiting recap, it's time to move on to training. From this point, the rest of the off season process only takes a few minutes. From the off season schedule, select the training option. This will close out the recruiting process (you can't do anything else in recruiting anyway). The training is all done by the computer and there is no input required. Once you start training you will see a message that walk ons are being added to certain schools. Any school that did not fill all there needs will receive walk on players at this point. Afterwards, the computer calculates the results of training. You will then be taken to the training report. The report shows lists all of your players, position, the amount the increased or decreased during training (+/-), and their stats. The number under the +/- heading refers to the players overall stat change. Individual categories may have changed at different rates. For each player, you will see an icon that represents how much improvement the player made to their overall rating. There are four categories. Most improved - awarded to the one player with the largest increase. Breakthrough - overall increase more than 5 points. Moderate - increase between 3 and 5 points. Minimal - increase of 1 or 2 points. You can sort the list by teams and positions to change the views. I've found that with my 3 star school, my players increased from 2 - 12 points. Some of the higher prestige schools showed even higher increases. 8. Cut Players Once your done looking at the training results, select the cut players option from the off season schedule. You will be shown your overall team roster. It looks just like the roster reports that you use during the season. On the right hand side, you'll see a breakdown of players by grade and the total number of players you have. The maximum roster is 55 players. So, if you have less than 55, you do not need to cut anybody and you can move on to the next step. If you have more, you will have to cut players until you have no more than 55. My personal philosophy is to cut the lowest overall ranked players, regardless of grade, or a senior that has rarely played. The reason I'll cut a senior over a possibly lower ranked underclassman is so that I do not have to worry about replacing him next year. Here's an example. Let's say I have 4 halfbacks. My returning starter, a senior with an overall rating of 85. A junior rated at 80, a senior at 70, and a freshman at 65. I half to keep three. My 85 rated senior is my starter, and my 80 rated junior will be his backup. But, even though the other senior is rated higher than the freshman, I will keep the freshman. Here's my logic. After the season is over, my starting senior is gone, and my junior will become the starter. I'll have the freshman as a backup and I will have to recruit at least one halfback to fill the need. Hopefully, he will be better than the returning freshman. If I cut the freshman, then both seniors will be gone next year and I will have to fill two needs. Since I don't intend for the third string to play much anyway, I will cut the 70 rated senior and avoid being forced to recruit two halfbacks for next year. Keep in mind the minimum requirements from the recruiting process. You cannot have less players at a position than the minimum. For example, you have to carry 3 halfbacks even if your strategy is to pass most of the time and you don't use your halfback that much. NOTE: I've said this every year. This is a game. Don't get caught up on loyalty. If the best player to cut is a senior because everyone else is better than him at that position, then cut him. It doesn't matter if he was your starter for the past three years or never played a down. There are no rewards or penalties for cutting players. This is really noticeable if you play with a lower ranked school. When you have a successful season, you may find that your incoming recruits are much better than the players you have. Fill your team with the best players. Don't get hooked on sentiment. They're not real people. 9. Set Depth Chart After you have made any necessary cuts, you have the option to set your depth chart. I would suggest skipping this step for now. We'll get to this in a moment. 10. Start New Season Now you're ready to begin the new season. Select the start new season option and the computer will close the off season and set the game up for the new year. You will be taken to the main dynasty menu and you're just about ready to get back on the field. But first, there are a couple of things to take care of. 11. Preseason options Before the season begins, there is an option on the main menu titled preseason options. This gives you a chance to change your schedule and redshirt players. This can only be done before the first game is played. Once you enter play week and play/simulate one game, this option goes away. 11.1 Custom schedule When you select preseason options, you have the choice of going to the custom schedule or redshirt players screen. Select the custom schedule by highlighting the schedule option and pressing the X button. You are now at the custom schedule screen. At the top left, you see your team name and your strength of schedule, shown as stars. The more stars, the tougher your schedule. A tough schedule will help you in the rankings and BCS calculation during the season. The tougher you can make your schedule, the better chance you have of being on top of the rankings. If you win, of course. At the bottom left of the screen is your locked schedule. These are your conference and traditional games that you cannot change. This schedule also is the same every year, except for home and away designation. On the right side are the games you can change. At the top it says Schedule up to # non- conference games. This is the maximum number of games you can have outside of your locked schedule, you can have less. Below this is a list of all the weeks you do not have a locked schedule game and the opponent you currently have scheduled (OPEN means you are not playing that week). To change a game, highlight the week you wish to change and press the X button. A list of all the schools available will appear. Remember, teams have their own schedules and will not be available every week. Also, any team with a ranking before their name is their preseason rank. They may not be ranked their when your game is actually played. Here's a couple of notes on your schedule. I would avoid the generic 1-AA teams (1-AA North, 1-AA Southwest, etc.). If you want to schedule games against 1-AA teams, at least pick some of the actual teams (Dartmouth, Western Illinois, etc.). Any 1-AA team on your schedule is considered a weak opponent. The game does not track records for teams not in the dynasty mode. So, there isn't a possibility that Georgia Southern goes 11-1 and only lost to your school and adds strength to your schedule. NOTE: If you added 1-AA at the beginning of your dynasty by replacing other schools, then they are considered 1-A opponents and their records are tracked. Consequently, the school they replaced can be scheduled, but will be treated as a 1-AA school. Also, you can schedule anybody who is available. In reality, North Texas wouldn't be able to convince Ohio State to come play a game in Denton. But, if they are available, you can schedule any team you want. Once you select your schedule, you can use the select button to toggle the home field. Once you have set your schedule, use the start button to confirm your new schedule. You can change your schedule as often as you like before the season starts. 11.2 Redshirt players Your other preseason option is to redshirt players. Redshirtting means that a player will not play in any game for the entire year and save his eligibility. So, if you redshirt a freshman you just recruited, he will sit out the entire season, but next year he will begin to play and have four years of eligibility. Unlike real college football, you must declare your redshirt players to retain their eligibility. When you select the redshirt players option, you will be taken to the roster menu. Any player who has not previously been redshirted are eligible. To see who is eligible, look at the players grade. If the letters (RS) appears next to the grade, then that player has already been redshirted and cannot be done again. Any player that does not have an (RS) designation can be redshirted by pressing the X button. A redshirt icon will appear on the screen for that player. Remember, in the cut process that you have to have a minimum number of players at each position. But, you can redshirt a player even if it puts you below the minimum. For example, say you have 3 quarterbacks, 1 senior and 2 freshman. Your senior is your starter. You can select one of the freshman to redshirt and save his eligibility. You are also hoping you will not need to play all three quarterbacks and you can save a year of playing. A note on redshirting. It is better to redshirt too many players than not enough. As I stated before, redshirting only counts if you declare the player a redshirt. Even if a player never plays a down, if he is not declared a redshirt, he will not save his eligibility. (In the NCAA, a player can be declared a redshirt after the season if he never played in a game). During the season, you can take a player off of redshirting by placing him on the depth chart. So, if later you need to activate a player, like that third quarterback, you can do so without a problem. Once you have made your redshirt selections, press the start button to confirm. The computer will remove this players from your depth chart. This is why I say to wait to set your depth charts. You can now set your depth charts without having to consider who you want to redshirt. They will be already off the chart. If you select a redshirted player to add to the depth chart, you will be prompted to confirm your selection. Remember, a player cannot be on the depth chart and be redshirted at the same time. 12. Game on Now that you have set your schedule and declared your redshirts, your ready to start the new season. Go into play week and start playing. You know what to do from here.