The marching bands are getting warmed up. The students are making travel plans for the big road games. The players are waiting in the locker room for the first inspirational words of the season from their new coach. That’s where you come in.
EA Sports has revamped the Dynasty mode for NCAA Football 14, giving you much more creative freedom as a coach. Additionally, this year’s game includes drastically streamlined recruiting system, making it easier to hone in on key prospects, and get back on the field to vie for the national championship. Still, there are a lot of nuances to get caught up in, and that’s why we’ve put together this handy guide. With our help, you’ll be a constant BCS contender year after year in no time.
First things first, you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to be a head coach or an offensive/defensive coordinator. You can choose to play as an existing coach if you want, complete with pre-determined Skill Trees (we’ll get to that shortly), but you’ll lose out on being able to shape your coach from the ground up.
If you want the ultimate in-depth, true-to-life college coach experience, you’ll want to give playing as a coordinator a go. You’ll only get to control one side of the ball during a game, but you can work your way up to gaining a head-coaching job during the off-season. Playing as a head coach means you’ll have total control during a game, but unless you start at a low-ranked university, there’s little room for advancement.
NCAA Football 14 uses an experience system akin to the same one seen in last year’s Madden NFL 13, which allows you to earn special traits for your coach. These traits are unlocked in Skill Trees, which in turn are based around specific abilities of the position. The head coach has both a general team management tree and a recruiting tree. The individual coordinators have single trees devoted specifically to either offense or defense.
During the season, completing objectives both in individual games (win, rush for 100 yards, score a touchdown, etc.) and over the course of the season (defeat a rival, be ranked #1, consecutive wins, etc.) will earn you experience necessary to add new skills to your tree. While in a season, you cannot change the skills you have unlocked, but during the off-season, you do have a chance to re-roll your skills if you want to make some adjustments.
As we mentioned, the head coach has both game management and recruiting Skill Trees. If you created your own head coach, you’ll get two one to unlock any item in either tree when the season begins. The coordinators will have one each. Additional points are unlocked one at a time by leveling up with the experience earned from your in-game and in-season objectives. In our experience, head coaches were able to level faster since they have more potential objectives to complete, though that’s offset for the coordinators since they only have one tree to worry about instead of two.
With a new head coach, the first Skill Tree you’ll want to develop is recruiting. Since you’ll likely be actively playing the games, there’s less of a rush to develop the game management Skill Tree at the start. That’s not to say those traits aren’t important, it’s just more vital to get a head start on your recruiting abilities if you want to have success for more than a few seasons.
Each Skill Tree has nine different traits to unlock, each with three tiers of improved performance. Certain tiers don’t unlock until you have obtained a qualifying number of the lower skills on the tree, which is why it’s best to kick things off on the recruitment side. On average, you will likely earn between 10-12 skill points as a head coach in a season (in addition to the one you started with), so it won’t be possible to max out any tree during your first year.
You’ll want to build up Scouting as fast as possible. Typically it will cost 50 of your allotted recruitment points (we’ll get to that in the Recruiting section) per week to scout a player. You can speed up how quickly and efficiently you’re able to scout by dumping both of your start-up points into this skill. Once you do, you’ll only have to spend 50 points per week to scout 50 percent of a potential prospect’s abilities. With a third point, which you should be able to earn after your first game of the season, you can scout a player 100 percent in one week. That’s a huge advantage to have when trying to determine which prospects to pursue early in the season.
Once you’ve unlocked three ranks on the first tier of either Skill Tree, you can advance to the next block of skills. Again, recruiting is vitally important during the first year, and the payoff for the second tier of skills outweighs the value of the game management tree. Once you’ve progressed to tier 2, it’s time to invest in the Opener skill (more recruiting points weeks 1-7) and the Royal Treatment (more bonus points during recruit visits) skill. The Closer (more recruiting points weeks 8-15) skill is a great one too, but you can hold off on investing there until later in the season. By the mid-point of the season, it will be tougher to earn new skill points as the amount of experience to the next level raises with each time you level-up. When you have about five or six points invested in recruiting, you can start looking at leveling up the game management side.
Road Warrior (quarterbacks don’t get rattled by road games) is the more important of the two base game management skills to level, though throwing Antifreeze (percentage of freezing the kicker being effective) a point or two over the course of the season certainly won’t hurt. By the third tier of Road Warrior, your quarterbacks will be completely unfazed by playing on the road in front of a rival’s raucous crowd. Once you’ve unlocked three tiers on level one, you can open up the second set. Considering how much emphasis has been put on the running game and the option in NCAA Football 14, Setup Artist (reduces yardage needed for effective play action) is the clear priority on this deck.
Ultimately, it’s really up to you to determine the best way to use your points. Considering there are 125 different universities all vying for the same pool of recruits, you can understand the emphasis on boosting your recruiting ability as fast as possible.
Offensive and defensive coordinator Skill Trees are tied specifically to that side of the ball. You don’t have two different trees to worry about as a coordinator, but you won’t level up as much as a head coach, meaning your points are still just as valuable and should be spent with efficiency. You’ll probably only be able to unlock the second set of skills at either job, but there are still some key traits you can take advantage of early on.
On the offensive side, Up Tempo (players fatigue less quickly, have lower injury risk) should be upgraded immediately. Ball Security (better Carry attribute) is nice and all, but the no-huddle offense is a dominating force these days, and it will certainly help to have players who don’t grow tired as fast as the opposition, and who are less prone to injury. Depending on what type of offense you run (a heavy air-attack, or a punishing running game), you’ll want to make use of Air Traffic Control (better Catching attributes) or Daylight (better Break Tackle, Trucking, etc.) when you open up the second level.
Defensive coordinator starts out almost the same way, with Recharge (players fatigue less quickly, have lower injury risk) being the first priority. The first level here also includes Road Closed (better Block Shedding) and Charge (better Power/Finesse moves) for run and pass attack respectively. Upgrading all three of these skills would provide a great advantage during the season. If you feel like dabbling in the second set of skills, No Fly Zone (better Zone Coverage in secondary) and Shutdown (better Man Coverage in secondary) are important, but even an average secondary can be made better with an exemplary pass rush.
If you go the coordinator route to start your career, you will be able to keep all the points you earned when offered a head coaching position. You will just reassign them to the new skill trees available. You could choose to stay as a coordinator, too, if you wanted, but the faster you can get on track for your coaching career, the more desirable you’ll be for bigger schools.
Though the games played on the field are certainly meaningful, the real meat and potatoes of the NCAA Football 14 Dynasty lies in recruiting. Unlike the real NFL, colleges must scout players from around the country in the hopes of finding the talent that will bring the school ever closer to the national title. Recruiting well will set you up for years to come, while recruiting poorly could mean you’ll be out of a job before the next season kicks off.
The recruiting process has been completely redesigned this year, taking out some of the minutia of years past, while still allowing a comprehensive and in-depth process. Even with the more generalized recruiting, there’s still a lot of work to do if you want to bring the biggest prospects to your program, or if you hope to find that stud player everyone else has ranked significantly lower.
Recruiting starts in the pre-season, though you’ll only be able to scout players initially. Every week, you’ll be given 5000 recruitment points to spend in whatever way you see fit on your list of prospects. You can only target 35 prospects at a given time, but you will be able to add and remove prospects at will as the season progresses.
There is a multitude of ways to find recruits, from the SPARQ 100 to the Pipeline State to the general list of all prospects. The general list provides the best way to find high school or junior college players already interested in attending your university, regardless of how highly touted they are as a prospect. You’ll also be able to see a recruit’s SPARQ score, ranking overall, ranking by position, caliber, and how locked in they are on their final choice.
During the pre-season, which only lasts one week, you’ll be able to target and scout 35 prospects. For at least this initial salvo, you should address positions where your team lacks depth. You can recruit whoever you want, but if you have seniors about to leave, they’ll need to be replaced by someone. If you took our advice and leveled up your Scouting skill, you’ll be able to get a greater idea of what the prospects have to offer your school. Scouting can reveal if a player is overrated, underrated, or justly rated, and just in this first week, you can get an idea of a handful of players that will be worth the time to recruit, or if you need to find more candidates.
While you could only scout players during the pre-season recruiting drive, you will have a few more options at your disposal during the regular season. You still will be able to continue scouting as many players as you can afford, but once a player’s potential stats are uncovered, it’s time to move on to more aggressive recruiting.
First, you’ll be able to offer the most promising of recruits a scholarship. Offering a scholarship is a good way to show the prospect how much you want them to be a part of your program. You can offer scholarships to as many different prospects as you want, but keep in mind that when it comes to signing day, every school only has 25 scholarships to give away. If you promised a scholarship to a recruit, but run out before he commits, he’s out of luck (and so are you if he was highly touted).
Additionally, during the season, you can schedule campus visits for a given recruit, provided he’s interested enough. Every recruit has an interest meter on the Visit tab. There, you can see a measurement of how eager he is to attend a visit, while also getting a glimpse at the other colleges that have invited him out. The later in a season you schedule a visit for a recruit, the more bonus points you’ll receive. However, the risk is if you schedule too late, he may commit to another university before he even steps on the plane to see what you have to offer.
Finally, once the season begins, you can add up to 500 bonus points of general recruiting effort to a prospect. All prospects will have some sort of bonuses attributed to their interest in the college, its proximity to home, the promise of playing time, and various other factors. These bonus points are free, but can vary greatly during the course of a season. If you add extra points to the recruiting effort, those points stay constant, and can make a big difference in attracting a player.
The key is following your progress in luring the prospect to your school compared to others, which you can view on the Prospect Overview tab. Here you can see just how many points ahead or behind other colleges you are on the recruit’s list. If you have a sizeable lead, you don’t have to devote an excess of bonus points to keep him interested. If you are slightly behind another school or two, and it’s a prospect you really want, then it makes sense to dump some recruiting points down to try and overtake the other interested parties. These interests will fluctuate during the season, so if there are certain players you hold in high regard, make sure to check their overview every week to keep your college at the top of their lists.
Once you have some recruits interested in checking out your school, it’s time to schedule them for visits. With this feature, NCAA Football 14 has incorporated competitive and complimentary visits. Competitive visits have a chance of decreasing the amount of bonus points you’ll receive from a given player (say if you invite two quarterbacks on the same day), but it’s a minor penalty that can be overcome by performing well in a game, or by having complimentary players visit on the same day, too.
Complimentary visits will add a small bonus for each player that will work in tandem with another. If you have a center ready to show up, you can also invite a guard or offensive tackle the same day, and the same works on the defensive side of the ball if you have a free safety and a strong safety that can make it on the same weekend.
There are also bonuses you can earn depending on how well your team performs during the game when you have visits scheduled. If you have a defensive back attending, getting some interceptions or passes defended will get you extra points, or if you have an offensive lineman in town, getting a certain number of rushing yards or passing yards will net you more points. Winning the game will certainly help, too, as will scheduling visits during a rivalry game.
Under no circumstances should you ever schedule visits for bye weeks. You get no bonuses, so there are no benefits whatsoever to having a recruit show up on campus to not see a football game. If a recruit’s schedule is already filled (recruits can only visit up to five schools), it may be time to look elsewhere as visits can increase your favor with a player tremendously, and your time would be better spent going after someone who actually would give you a bonus.
Recruits can commit at any point during the year, but many of your possible future players will require some more convincing in the off-season. Instead of a lengthy process, you now have just one week to get the remaining players you’re looking for onto the team. There is a bit of good news though, as you’ll have a giant pool of 10,000 points to spend however you want. Have one prospect you just can’t live without? Put all the points into him. Need some depth, and have a few players on the cusp? Spread it all out to maximum effectiveness. Just be wary that even if you put a lot of points into a player, they still might choose another school, and you could lose out on other recruits.
Once that final week is over, the game jumps right to the pre-season again, and the process begins anew. With all of our advice in hand, you should be able to develop your college football program into one of the strongest in the nation, and join the ranks of elite coaches synonymous with a school and its success.
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