The first sim of recruiting is the week1 regular season sim. You can set up your recruiting before that (e.g. at the training camp or redshirt stage) but nothing will be processed before the week 1 sim. Recruiting then runs every sim until, and including the bowl sim. Then there is a short break for championship and end of season stuff, before you get one last shot at the start of the new season. This means that you can recruit for the signing day sim as well.
I didn't get enough players
If you fail to get all your scholarships signed during the recruiting season, your coaches will travel the country on signing day and help you get your roster filled. (The players signed in this way still get a scholarship, and are therefore as such not walk-ons.)
These points you assign to recruits. They represent resources allocated to convince them to sign with your program.The more recruiting points you assign, the more aggressively your recruiters will pursue a player.
You should make sure to have spent all your points for every sim, so as to not waste resources. The game will carry over assigned points, so you do not get new points after each sim, but are free to re-allocate points to other recruits. If a player signs with another team, you will get the points you allocated to him back, and can distribute them on other targets. However, if a player signs with you, the points allocated to him are locked, and you will not get them back.
Each recruiting season you will have an amount of free scholarships to offer to recruits. The amount depends on your rostersize and how many players will graduate after the season. Offering a player a scholarship makes him more likely to sign with you (clearly, if you havent offered him a 'ship he cant sign with you, the point here is that offering scholarships works with recruiting points to increase his chance to sign with). This means that before a sim, you should make sure to have offered out all your scholarships, so as to not waste recruiting resources. You can always remove an 'ship offer and offer the 'ship to someone else.
Who to target
The game provides a filter with recommended targets that is easy to use. This suggestion leans to the conservative side, so a player not being listed here does not entail that you couldn't get him. Observe that the recommended targets does not reflect who you have the biggest chance to get, and therefore they are not surefire options. Whaqt the list reflects are those you have a realistic chance to get. For those with the best chance you should go way down in recruiting rank and set the distance to the lowest options.
If you are a low prestige team, it is very preferable to look for players with no offers. In doing this you can go outside your suggested range, and may come out with better classes than you would have gotten if you' stayed 'safe'. Dont give up on a player just because he has low interest IF NO ONE ELSE IS TARGETING HIM. He will prefer going to your program, if the alternative is not playing football at all.
Going outside the recommended targets
Fir thing to notice when doing this is the highest ranked player (in terms of recruit rank) in your recommended targets. This is based mainly on prestige - use this as a rough benchmark when looking at other players. The further away (better recruit rank) you get from this target the less likely you are to be interesting to the player. Additionally, when moving outside the recommended targets you want to quickly determine your chances by interviewing the player [see more below].
What determines if a player likes me?
There are a range of factors that interact to determine a players preferences. Some of the major ones can be discerned in his personality, this is why getting interviews on players you are uncertain about is a good idea. The factors that can be assessed from his personality are the following:
should be obvious
Values Playing time:
not only how many you have at his position BUT also their quality. so if you have a 95 rated RS freshmen at the same position, that counts highly against you, because the player will expect to sit behind him for 3 or 4 years. Look at your roster breakdown and the quality of the players that will be there next year.
Values market size:
aligns roughly with conference prestige. Observe that conference prestige is dynamic. This means that if you run a 30 year sim and the SEC takes a nosedive, where all the teams lose prestige for several years, and no-one brings home a championship for years, the conference will lose prestige, and may not have the swagger in the ears of year 2040 recruits, that it does in the ears of 2016 recruits. Similarly, bottom conferences may blossom over the years (maybe led by you?). So especially in long term sims, pay attention to how the conferences are doing to assess this. You can see the conference prestige on the standings page.
should be obvious, but keep in mind they are also looking at recent history, not just that you might be having a good year right now.
Values Close to home:
should be fairly obvious. Observe that since we are using real distances (lat/lon) players from high schools close to state borders might actually be closer to an out-of-state program than to a big college at the other end of the state.
Values Loyalty and Security:
These both factor in, albeit in a minor way, relating to how long you are on a recruit. The longer you recruit a player for, the bigger the impact. Security indicates the player getting used to the thought of moving his life to your program, making plans, imagining himself living away from home and time to make practical preparations. Loyaty represents how much he values persistent recruiting.
Now because a player has a rating in each of these they have different impact, so you might be able to convince a player that is far away, if his 'values close to home' is very low etc.
Every value matters. This means that you cannot only look at the values he rates highly. A common misconception is only looking at the values above 50 thinking he will base his decision solely on them, and ignoring the others. This is a mistake. Perhaps your team is winning on the one rating he values the most, but if you lose on all the others it might even out.
Obviously, a major factor in your chances to get a player, is the other teams pursuing that player. After the first recruiting sim (regular season week 1) you can see a list of the teams recruiting a player on his player card (click the 'scout report' button on his entry on your target list to open). Keep an eye on your competitors to help you asses whether to cut bait on a player. If you are a small school and you see 'bama waltz in with a handful of trinkets and a scholarship? The perhaps its time to show yourself the door, even if his 'values prestige' is low.
Because recruiting is not a winner takes all affair, this means that every team on a player has a chance to get him. Obviously the chance of his preferred team is much better than the rest. However, the upshot of this is that the more teams are on a player the lower everyone's chance to get him gets. So if you are his preferred team and you had a 90% chance to get him if you were up against only one other team, this might fall to like 50% or 60% (im just making numbers up here) if there are 6 teams. So rather than getting him 9 out 10 times, you would only get him half the time. So again: pick your battles.
In addition to previous winning seasons, your current ranking matters.
The interest bar indicates two things. First of all it obviously indicates how much he likes your program. Over time he may warm up to you, or cool down (e.g. if someone enters he likes more). The other thing interest indicates is how much he values your recruiting points. So high interest is a good sign if you are facing competition.
How many points should I assign?
First off: there are a lot of teams in the college world, and you are likely to have a few competitors for every recruit. The AI goes hard after its targets assigning as many points it can afford, and is then subsequently very sensitive to the prospect of losing, and will shift targets if it thinks it is trailing too much on a recruit. This means that for the players you absolutely want, you need to target hard as well. If the competition isn't stiff, or you can see that a player fits your program perfectly in terms of matches between your program and his preferences, you can get away with assigning less. One thing to keep in mind is that if you have been the only team on a player for a long time, and have stacked up at lot of goodwill (points) on the player, at some point you can start to pull off a few points and allocate them to other targets. Of course you will need to monitor weekly whether someone else jumps in on him and possibly increase points again in that case. When exactly it is safe to take the foot off the pedal is uncertain, but it is definitly riskier for smaller teams than for bigger teams.
However, players also value persistence. This means that if you keep yourself on a players radar, even if you dont currently have a scholarship to offer him, it will benefit you if you later want to target him. Therefore, (if you can spare the points) it is useful to allocate a few points to fallback targets, that you can then turn to if one of your main targets sign elsewhere.
Because your chance to sign a player depends on the relative amount of recruiting points (modified by how much he values the points of the team in question) between competing teams, it is critical to your chances to keep stacking points on players where there is competition. This also means that the first few weeks of recruiting are critical in terms of picking your battles, especially for the top recruits because it is very hard to comeback from behind against equal competition. Additionally; This also means that when you are looking for fallback targets you either need to find players that are targeted by teams worse than you. Bigger teams can catch up to worse teams even if they come in late (or preferably players that have no offers). NOTICE IF YOU CLICK THE NAME ON A PLAYER IN THE PLAYERPOOL YOU CAN SEE HIS PLAYERCARD AND WHO'S TARGETING HIM BEFORE YOU ADD HIM TO YOUR TARGETS. You can go way outside your recommended distance (and in principle prestige range) if you find players without offers - of course if a local big fish jumps on them you might still lose them. It is often preferable to back off a highly contested 4star ranked 250 and instead target a 3star ranked 350. Don't get too caught up in starratings.
The 'recruited by' list
On the player card this provides a list of five of the teams recruiting him in no particular order. To be listed a team much have offered him a scholarship AND he must have more than 50 interest. Importantly, this does not indicate who is in the lead, and the team in the lead MAY NOT be listed. I will however usually reflect the biggest teams targeting a player. If no-one has offered a scholarship to the player it will say NONE, if someone has offered a scholarship to a player but is below 50 interest it the field will be blank. This also means that (mostly in multiplayer leagues) the further you get into the season, the more weary you should be when its blank, because some minor team may have stacked a lot of points nevertheless.
If you cut players from your roster, you will get extra scholarships and a few extra recruiting points. However, since the 'budget' has already been made for that season, you the athletic department isn't keen to shell out a lot of resources just because you decided you hated half the roster, so the amount of extra recruiting points you get for cutting a player is less than what was 'budgetted with' in the initial budget. This means that if you cut a lot of players, you can get into a bad situation where you wont have the resources to aggressively pursue players for every free scholarship you have, so be careful.