Personnel and Recruiting for the 3-3-5
With the 3-3-5 defense, perhaps the most important aspect is before your team ever takes the field; it’s all about what type of players you have in each position. Below is a breakdown of each position along with the most important traits, below that are those traits sorted in a general order of importance.
The SSes should perhaps be given the most focus in recruiting simply because these need to be some of the best athletes on the field. They are essentially a combination of Cornerbacks and Linebackers needing both coverage ability (Man & Zone) but also run stopping and tackling ability. The ideal player will be 6'0 or taller, have good Speed & Agility around 90 or higher, have good Man & Zone Coverage with both at least 80 or higher, but then will also need to have very good Tackling, Play Recognition, & Block Shed for run-stopping ability. Finding a player with all of these skills will be very difficult so in most cases you'll have to either sacrifice one or more of the abilities or you can always recruit two types of SSes, one as a coverage, the other as a run-stopper, however that will begin to limit your play-calling. Since true SSes will be vary rare in this form, Free Safeties can be sometimes found or also Cornerbacks that have exceptional tackling abilities.
SS1 (defense's left) - PRC, TKL, ZCV, MCV, AGI, SPD
SS2 (defense's right) - MCV, ZCV, AGI, SPD, PRC, TKL
For LBs, these will also be guys that will be more difficult to find because you're essentially looking for guys that are in the mold of Ray Lewis. They'll need to have Speed (SPD), Strength (STR), Block Shedding (BSH), Power or Finesse Moves (PMV or FMV), Play Recognition (PRC), and Tackling (TKL). Added, they'll also be asked to cover Tight Ends and the occasional Receiver so they need to have decent Man and Zone Coverage (MCV & ZCV) abilities. Again, you can sacrifice some of that, but in order for them to be able to attack on the blitz, SPD, PRC, and BSH will be the most important elements.
LOLB - PRC, TKL, ZCV, MCV, BSH
MLB - PRC, TKL, STR, BSH, ZCV
ROLB - PMV/FMV, BSH, STR, PRC, TKL
The CBs will be a bit easier to find, though still very important. CBs will need the common traits that good CBs have... Speed, Agility, Acceleration, and both Man and Zone Coverage ability. Cornerbacks will primarily just be assigned to either cover an outside receiver in man or just play a deep zone but a Corner that can also Tackle is always good to have. One added bonus to running this defense is that since you can use this personnel against practically any offense, you won't need to keep 4-6 CBs in order to play Dime.
CBs - MCV, SPD, AGI, ZCV, ACC
The FS position is what I refer to as a Centerfielder. For him, the most important attributes are Speed, Acceleration, and Zone Coverage. Because he FS will be playing deep zone in the middle of the field for the large majority of the time, his tackling ability is less important, however since he will be the last line of defense, it is important that he has some Tackling. Added, there are a lot of Zero-Coverage blitzes available in the 3-3-5 so he will be called upon to play Man Coverage, though generally that will be against Tight Ends and Runningbacks.
FS - ZCV, SPD, ACC, TKL, PRC
For D-Line, your main focus is not necessarily for them create pressure but rather they need to keep the offensive lineman busy. For that, the most important rating will be Strength (STR). No other rating is near as important for the entire defensive line. Obviously any other ratings that they have will be a big benefit but for the most part, these guys won’t be making sacks or tackling Runningbacks for loss, that will be the job of the Linebackers and Strong Safeties. Because of this, you mainly want to focus on recruiting Defensive Tackles that can then move over to Defensive End.
DEs - STR, STR, STR, PMV/FMV, TKL
DTs - STR, STR, STR, PMV/FMV, TKL
Running the 4-2-5 Defense
Someone asked about the 4-2-5 defense and the moderator jammed it into the NCAA 14 Q & A thread. I'm not sure why, so I'll answer the question here since it is generic to all versions of NCAA.
I started running the mostly out of the 4-2-5 last year. The reality is that a lot of passing happens in college football today, and the 4-2-5 is a way to help defend that while still giving you a chance to stop the run. In this year's version especially, I have found difficulty stopping heavy run teams. Generally, if they are running into the middle of the field a blitz can help stop that. Also, I'll sometimes user the DT and try to help him bust through the line, which seems to be a bit more effective this year.
The outside run is problematic to defend since you don't have linebackers on the outside to shut that down. QB contain can work in that instance, but can open you up on the inside against a smart player. Also the base Cover 2 leaves the corners down low where they can bust up sweeps and screen passes.
In general, like most flavors of defense in NCAA, zone defense works better to shut down the run, and man works better to shut down the pass. If I have the talent, you can formation sub in the 4-2-5 to help both scenarios. With five alignments, I'll put better run support safeties in run alignments, and better pass coverage safeties and LBs in one or two of the alignments. Then I can switch between them to get help stop the run or the pass as needed.
Still, I've found the need to put 4-4 and 5-2 alignments into my playbook to slow down those teams that really rely on a power running game. The 3-4 Predator is also a good alignment to have against the run.
Hope this helps.