Football 101 | Chapter 7 | Offense

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The offense segment of the football team is further divided into three main groups with specific positions within each group. The three major groupings for the offense are the offensive line, the receivers, and offensive backs. Each group will have specific assignments it needs to accomplish for the offense to move the ball down the field and ultimately score. By rule, the offensive team must have seven players lined up on the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped and the play begins.

The offensive line normally consist of five players; a center, two guards, and two tackles whose job is block opposing players on all plays run by the offense. Offensive linemen are usually bigger and/or stronger than the other offensive players and need good balance and quickness in a limited area. It is difficult for any offense to have success without a well coordinated, efficient offensive line. The five offensive linemen must line up on the line of scrimmage.

The center lines up over the ball. In addition to blocking assignments, the center begins every play by moving the ball to the quarterback either by direct snap or by a shotgun snap. The two guards line up one on either side of the center. The two tackles line up one on either side of the two guards. For teams that run the ball more than they pass, the tight end may be considered part of the offensive line. The tight end will line up on the line of scrimmage on the outside of the offensive tackle and be used primarily as a blocker. The tight end may be smaller and have the ability to run pass routes and catch the ball.

The receivers group usually starts with one or two players: a flanker and a split end whose job it is to block on running plays and to run proper pass routes and be able to catch and run with the ball. Often they will be asked to block linebackers or defensive backs rather than bigger defensive linemen. The flanker will line up off the line of scrimmage and split away from the tight end. When the receiver lines up as a wingback, his alignment will be off the line of scrimmage and just outside the position of the tight end. The wingback may be used as a ball-carrier in some offenses. The split end lines up on the line of scrimmage on the side of the field away from the tight end, split out from the offensive tackle. Either the flanker or split end can become ball carriers when the offense runs a reverse play.

The offensive backfield will usually be made up of three players; one quarterback, (who should be a good athlete, smart, understand the offense and be able to handle the pressure of the position). In addition there will be one fullback (who must be able to block on both run and pass plays, carry the ball, especially running inside the offensive tackles and run some pass routes to catch the ball), and one halfback or tailback whose primary assignments will be to carry the ball on many running plays, run proper pass routes, catch the ball, and serve as a blocker). The quarterback serves as the leader of the team: calls the play, formation and snap count in the huddle, breaks the huddle, brings the team to line of scrimmage and at the line calls out the cadence to start the play. He receives the snap from the center, and either hands the ball off to another player, passes the ball to a receiver, or runs with the ball. The quarterback lines up directly behind the center to receive the ball or four yards behind the center if receiving a shot gun snap. The fullback will line up behind the quarterback or directly behind one of the offensive tackles. The halfback can line up behind one of the offensive tackles or behind the fullback in an I-formation.