Strategy Guide
Winning the Recruiting Wars in NCAA Football 09

So you want to become the next Nick Saban or Steve Spurrier by landing those highly sought after recruits successfully? It’s not very difficult at all for the more elite programs in the game to have a top 10 recruiting class every year; however, the mid- to low-tier teams can sometimes struggle to land top-quality recruits. I’ve tried several different strategies with different team types and have come up with some sound advice for those of you looking to move up the recruiting ladder.

Be realistic – You are not going to land every single 5-star player on the Russell Top 100 list and if you are a mid-tier team or lower, you may be better off leaving those guys alone altogether. Settling on a realistic list of potential recruits is the first step to having a successful recruiting season. I’m suggesting that if a player in the top 100 doesn’t have you in at least the top 5, you are going to need to a considerable amount of time wooing that player to your school.

If someone in the Russell Top 100 is interested in your team, then by all means go after them -- however, know that the time you spend talking to the 5-star athlete could have been spent talking to several 3- or 4-star players that have you ranked a lot higher on their lists, which brings me to my next point.

Focus on the interested recruits – By focusing on players that are interested in your school, not only do you have a leg up over the competing schools, but you increase the likelihood of them signing earlier with you. When players have you listed as their number one school, I have found that it's possible to sign them simply by offering a scholarship and 10 extra minutes of phone time.

Early commits are huge for schools needing to either rebuild or start completely from the ground up, and the only way I’ve seen a player sign early is when he has a school at the top of his list. Letting those 3-star players that have you at number one sit by the phone during the first few weeks of the season -- while you are yapping it up with Mr. Football in Texas, who has you sitting at number eight -- can be very costly.

Specialization – What type of team are you putting together? This is a question you have to ask yourself before hitting the recruiting trail. If you are going to be an air it out passing attack team, then having four power fullbacks on the recruiting board does you no good. Target the players you need to bring in to build your program around your offensive and defensive style.

Another aspect relating to this point is finding the specialized gems in the recruiting pool. Speedster wideouts who can’t catch in traffic, defensive tackles who bench 500-plus pounds but are slow as trucks, and speedy halfbacks who go down when someone breathes on them too hard are all examples of finding a specialized attribute in a recruit and making the most of it.

Communicate effectively – When you do sit down and talk to your prospects, make sure that what you are telling them is exactly what they want to hear. This particular tip probably falls into the doesn’t-really-need-to-be-said category but some guys out there may want to know how to get the most out of their weekly chats. Once you find the "most" and the two "very highs," pound on the ones that benefit your program the most.

If you see that location is "above average" for a recruit and he lives in your state, try to sway him up a level to get that added bonus. I’ve seen it mentioned before in one of the Operation Sports threads that actually swaying a recruit’s interest down in a category that is beneficial to an opponent will end up helping you as well.

Schedule visits during Rivalry Week – This is perhaps the biggest of all my tips, and I will give you an example as to why. During my Southern Cal season, I had the number one WR in the nation that ranked me at number three on his list of schools. He had soft committed to Ohio State the week before and I thought there was no way I was going to land the second coming of Randy Moss -- but I had him visiting during the UCLA game, and what a game it was. I ended up winning by 14 and then I got the news the following week: Brian Lane, the number one WR in the nation has committed to USC. Schedule those recruiting visits during rivalry week and WIN!

Study the competition – I’ve landed several recruits by using this tactic. I make a note of who ranks one, two and three on a recruit’s list. Then I go to each school and look over its roster to see how the team stacks up at that position. One year USC had several running backs (I wasn't USC in this dynasty) and I found a 4-star RB that had USC listed at number one. I knew USC wouldn’t recruit this guy as hard as it should since the program didn’t need him, so I targeted him a little harder than I normally would. I eventually landed him as USC fell off the top 3.

This method is even more effective in online dynasties, but sometimes more unpredictable as some teams will overload at skill positions to only end up cutting players later. You just have to adapt to different players online.

None of what I have mentioned is groundbreaking in any sense and I will be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers. I’ve played 8 seasons in Dynasty Mode: three with Southern Cal, having a top two class or better for all three seasons, two with Army, cracking the top 25 in my second season, and a few test seasons with Clemson and Western Kentucky -- I fielded a top 10 class twice with Clemson.

So since I'm sure I've missed some key strategies, what are some of your most treasured recruiting tips?

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