Unlike passing, running, also called “rushing”, or the ground game, is one of the most brutal parts of the game of football. These guys, the running backs, carry the football as far as their little legs will take them down the field. They take an enormous beating from their opponents on defense. Mostly because when a guy is running with a football, there are several players coming at him from all directions, not just one, and the running back can truly get pummeled.
Many men have received recognition, awards and have been offered a position in the pros because they are so good at running the ball. It is one of the most valuable positions on the team and one of the hardest.
A good running back must know exactly what his job is, as much as he can about his opponent in each game and be aware of all 21 other players on the field during every game. The running backs typically line up behind the quarterback and the line of scrimmage (where the ball is hiked).
A tailback is one of the running backs and is the primary ball carrier. This guy is usually not as big as the other players. But just because they tend to not be very big doesn’t mean they are not tough. They are usually one of the most scrappy, determined and talented players on the team.
If a team has two running backs behind the quarterback, one of them will be, what is called, a fullback. The fullback is usually bigger than the tailback and he protects the tailback by making a clear path for him by blocking the guys on the other team from tackling him.
The running back may even be considered the best athlete on the team and here are 5 reasons why he excels in this position:
- Two Point Stance - Lining up correctly for each play
- The Handoff - The running back will have the ball handed to him by the quarterback and he must be able to grab it and go. (See image on the left showing the quarterback handing off to the running back)
- Run - Knowing how to run, where to run, and being able to turn quickly, all at top speed, is usually what the running back does very well.
- Seeing - A lot like the quarterback, the running back needs to have good peripheral vision to run a way from the oncoming defensive players.
- Block - If the running back is not carrying the ball then he is expected to block for his teammates. Fullbacks are the best blockers of the running backs.
- Think - A running back needs to be able to think fast and move accordingly. He also needs to know all the plays just like the quarterback. That’s a lot of plays!
Just like the receivers have pass patterns, running backs have what are called assignments that tell them where to run with the ball. They must know where the other team’s defensive guys are going to come from and what direction they are going to take to tackle him.
Here are the 10 most well known running plays in football:
- Dive - The running back will get the handoff from the quarterback and with the fullback running in front to block and make a way for him, runs inside to a predetermined hole in the defensive line.
- Counter - There will be a decoy running back that the quarterback will fake a handoff too and then hand off to the real runner, generally a fullback, who runs to find a hole in the middle of the defensive line.
- Draw - Set up to look like a pass play because the quarterback drops back like he is going to pass but then hands off to to the runner.
- Off-Tackle - The runner, usually the tailback, will line up behind the tight end, which in this play the tight end is blocking. The runner is trying to take advantage of a potential hole that the tight end and tackle will create.
- Pitch - The quarterback takes his steps back and fakes a handoff to one of two running backs then the quarterback will laterally tosses or “pitches” the ball to the other running back.
- Reverse - A running back will receive the handoff from the quarterback. He then runs behind the line of scrimmage and hands the ball off to a wide receiver. The wide receiver will then run in the opposite direction that the running back was originally coming from confusing the defense.
- Slant - The runner will run straight toward the line of scrimmage and then angle toward the outside after getting the ball handed to him.
- Sweep - Everyone runs toward the outside, even the linemen. The running back gets the ball from the quarterback and runs while his blockers lead the way to the outside. If the quarterback is right handed they usually run the sweep toward the left and vise versa.
- Trap - Basically a trap is set for a player on the defensive line to break through the offensive line. This opens a hole for the running back to get through while an offensive guard has surprised the defensive guy that got through.
- Option - In this play, the quarterback will actually run with the ball if he is not able to hand off to either of the running backs. The point is, he has options and will be reading the defense to see what he should do.
Although running plays seem to make little sense in that they often appear to go nowhere, there is a rhyme and reason to using them. But without the offensive linemen, the big guys up front, making it all possible for the running backs to run with the ball, they would never get as far as they do. So tomorrow we will talk about those huge fellas on the offensive line.
**I have tried really hard to explain everything up to this point as simply as possible. If there is something that is not clear or you have further questions about, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me. I want to do the best I can to help anyone understand this crazy fun game of football. From here on out, it is going to get a bit more complicated so bear with me, and again, ask questions if there is something you don’t get.