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Football 101

Positions (Offense)

  • Quarterback: Quarterbacks receive the ball (the "snap") from the center at the beginning of each play, either directly from behind the center (called "under center") or in a "shotgun" formation in which they stand several yards behind the center and receive the ball snapped back to them. Once a quarterback gets the ball he either passes the ball to a receiver, hands it off (the "hand-off") or tosses ("pitches") to a running back, or try to advance the ball by running with it themselves ("quarterback sneak" or "quarterback draw"). They are the leaders of the offensive team and "run" the offense. 
  • Halfback/Tailback: The halfback is usually the team's best runner. At the high school level, a halfback isn't always a big player, but he is almost always tough, durable, fast and quick. The halfback either takes the hand off or pitch from the quarterback on running plays, stays in to block for the quarterback on pass plays or becomes a pass receiver himself. A tailback is distinguished from a halfback by the fact that a tailback lines up directly behind the fullback (also called the blocking back) in a so-called "I" formation.
  • Fullback: Fullbacks either run-block for halfbacks, leading the halfback through the hole in the line to block a linebacker, stay in the backfield to block for the quarterback on pass plays, or take a hand off from the quarterback on running plays, usually straight-ahead running plays and in short yardage situations where their size and strength helps them grind out the yardage needed for a first down or touchdown. 


  • Wide Receiver: The wide receiver's main role is to catch passes from the quarterback and block the defensive cornerback on outside running plays .
  • Tight End: The tight end can be both a receiver and a blocking player.
  • Slot Back: The slot back or slot receiver stands a yard or two back from the offensive line (in the "slot") between the wide receiver and the rest of the offensive line. He runs pass patterns, blocks, or is used as a running back on reverses or end-arounds.

Offensive Linemen

  • Offensive Tackle: The two tackles line up on the outside of the guards. They are usually the biggest and strongest offensive lineman and are asked to block the biggest and strongest defensive lineman - the defensive tackles - on running plays (especially "off-tackle" runs) and to protect the quarterback from onrushing lineman on pass plays.
  • Offensive Guard: The offensive guards line up on either side of the center and block. They are usually quicker, faster and lighter than offensive tackles, and often "pull" out of their position to lead running plays designed to go to the outside ("sweeps"). 
  • Center: The center is responsible for snapping/hiking the ball to the quarterback at the beginning of each play, either when the quarterback is "under center" (i.e. right behind) him, in which case he snaps the ball directly into the quarterback's hands, or via a "direct" snap to the quarterback when he is in a "shotgun" formation and is standing several yards back from the offensive line.