Browse Lessons
Assign Lesson

Help Teaching subscribers can assign lessons to their students to review online!

Assign Lesson to Students

Share/Like This Page

Football: Offensive Backs

Football: Offensive Backs

Through passing, running with, and catching the ball, the job of an offensive back is to move the ball down the field until it's delivered into the end zone.

The offense is commanded by the Quarterback (QB).  He generally doesn’t decide which play to call, as this is decided by the coach.  Some experienced quarterbacks, though, have the permission of the coach to call the plays, but this is rare.  The QB will tell the other offensive players in the huddle what the play is, and each player already knows what he is supposed to do on that play.

When the offense faces off against the other team's defense at the line of scrimmage, the QB shouts out a series of code words and numbers (called the "cadence") before starting the action by calling for the ball from the lineman called the center.  This is known as taking the “snap”. The QB’s commands before the snap usually tell the other players to make adjustments to their jobs based on what the defense looks like.  Sometimes, the QB will change the play completely just before the snap.  This is called an “audible”.

When the QB calls for the ball, play begins, and he will either hand the ball to a running back (this is called a “rush”), pass the ball to a receiver, or toss the ball underhand backward to another back, tight end, or receiver (this is called a "pitch") who either runs behind the QB or is parallel to him. He is not allowed to pitch the ball forward. The QB may also keep the ball and run with it.

Successful QBs are fast and quick and can think on their feet while facing tremendous pressure from the hefty defensive players who want to tackle him.  QBs must be able to throw the ball with power and accuracy, too.

There are two kinds of running backs – halfback (HB) and fullback (FB).  The quick and speedy HB does it all.  He lines up either behind or beside the QB.  He runs with the ball, goes out for a pass, and can even block.  His speed gives him a chance on every rush to carry the ball for a big gain, and maybe even run for a touchdown.  On a trick play he might even throw a pass.

The FB is a bigger, more sturdy version of the HB.  What he may lack in quickness and speed, he makes up for in strength and power.  Often he will be called on to block for the halfback or when the QB drops back to pass, but sometimes he’s given the ball.  He will try to smash through the defensive line knocking down and running over defenders usually in situations when only a few yards are needed.

The backs are an important part of the offense.  No team can win without fast, strong, quick backs.