January 29


What Does 12 & 11 Personnel Mean In Football? Learn Here

By vIQtory

January 29, 2019

On a typical Sunday, you might hear Tony Romo say, “the offense is in 11 personnel here” or “watch them run the ball here in 21 personnel”. What does 11 personnel mean?

11 personnel means there is 1 running back and 1 tight end in the offensive formation. The first number represents the running backs, and the second number represents the tight ends.

This article will show you what personnel means in football and why it’s essential for both the offense and defense.

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Personnel In Football

The receivers are not listed in the personnel grouping number. Offensive rules indicate the offense may have five eligible players to touch the football; the remaining number is the wide receivers. For example, 11 personnel means:

1 running backs + 1 Tight End = 11 Personnel

This means there are 3 wide receivers on the play, as you would subtract the running back and tight end from the total of 5 eligible receivers allowed on the field.

Another common example would be 10 personnel. This is how coaches calculate 10 personnel:

1 Running Back + 0 Tight Ends = 10 Personnel
1 Running Back + 0 Tight Ends = 1 Eligible Receiver

Now we know that there is only one running back; it must mean there are four wide/slot receivers on the play.

This knowledge helps defenses match up with offenses from a speed/power standpoint.

We’re going to break down the different formations that come with different personnel groupings.

This will give you a clearer picture of what the offense is trying to accomplish in these personnel sets.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth breakdown, our Complete Football Guide breaks down football from a simplistic standpoint.

21 Personnel

21 personnel football

Running Backs: 2 
Tight Ends: 1 
Receivers: 2 
Common Formations: I-Pro, Split Back, Strong/Weak I

21 Personnel is a dying personnel grouping, especially in the NFL. With the innovation of the spread offense, fullbacks are not necessarily needed, thus eliminating the second running back.

However, both Kansas City and New England carry fullbacks, proving to be pivotal in their offense, especially in short-yardage situations.

22 Personnel

Running Backs: 2 
Tight Ends: 2 
Receivers: 1
Common Formations: Double Tights I

22 Personnel is often used for short-yardage situations or with teams that have versatile H-backs in their system.

A great example would be when the New England Patriots had Martellus Bennet and Rob Gronkowski on the field simultaneously. Both players match up exceptionally well against linebackers and can block effectively.

As mentioned, 22 personnel has two running backs, two tight ends, and one receiver in the game.

Due to the “bigger” personnel on the field, defenses are more apt to put bigger linemen to match size for size.

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10 Personnel

10 personnel

Running Backs: 1 
Tight Ends: 0 
Receivers: 4 
Common Formations: Doubles & Trips

10 Personnel is standard for teams that spread the football around the field.

As shown above, doubles and trips are common formations in 10 personnel. Also, typical run schemes of 10 personnel are inside and outside the zone.

Being in 10 personnel is a great way to utilize speed and athletes in space. It also forces the defense to spread themselves out, covering the box with fewer players.

11 Personnel

11 personnel

Running Backs: 1 
Tight Ends: 1 
Receivers: 3 
Common Formations: Doubles & Trips

11 personnel is more balanced for teams to both throw and run from. Teams can still run both inside/outside zone and 21 personnel, plays such as the power.

It keeps offenses more balanced, as they’re forced to keep a linebacker on the field to match the power of the tight end.

Using Rob Gronkowski as an example – he is a matchup nightmare for teams because they have to pick their poison of keeping a linebacker in the game (who is often too slow to run with him) or bringing in a defensive back to cover him (who is often not as good as a linebacker in the run game).

The Patriots have used 11 personnel to run from the spread and attack the middle of the field.

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12 Personnel

12 Personnel

Running Backs: 1 
Tight Ends: 2 
Receivers: 2 
Common Formations: Double Tights

12 Personnel is slowly becoming the new 21 personnel for teams who want to run power football but have two tight ends to spare rather than a stalky, physical fullback.

Teams may elect to use two tight ends on the line of scrimmage, or one tight end on the line of scrimmage and the other as a motioning H-back.

An example would be running power from 12 personnel, as we diagram here about the power play in our blog.

13 Personnel

13 personnel

Running Backs: 1 
Tight Ends: 3 
Receivers: 1 
Common Formations: Double Tight Wing

Three tight ends are rare in high school and college football; however, at the pro level, it’s common.

We’ll often see Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, and Jacob Hollister line up tight ends to stick with the New England Patriot theme.

Gronk will often line up as an H-back and motion him back and forth, giving the flexibility to run power or any scheme, often from under center.

13 Personnel is a run-dominant formation and will often warrant defensive coaches to bring in more defensive linemen and linebackers

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Why Aren’t The Receivers Included In The Personnel Grouping?

The personnel groupings only include running backs and tight ends.

It makes it easier for defenses to identify using these two positions, as stopping the run is most important to defense personnel.

What If There Are More Than 2 Running Backs?

If there are more than two running backs ( such as a wing T, which has one fullback and two wings), it depends on how the coach wants to classify it.

Because those wings may turn into slot receivers, it may be worth categorizing them as ten personnel. If it’s a dominant run team,  it can be classified as 31 or 32 personnel. It’s all at the coaches’ discretion.

What’s The Best Way To Use The Personnel Grouping Numbers?

The best way to utilize the personnel grouping numbers is to determine which defense you should have on the field.

College or pro teams often have a flip board with “21” or “11,” signaling to the defense, which is in the game before the offense breaks the huddle. Certain formations often tip off tendencies of offenses.


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    • Thanks for the comment Graydon! The “P” stands for “Personnel”. So 11 personnel, 12 personnel, etc. It’s the same as saying 11 or 12, in regards to who is on the field.

    • The 22 and 21 personnel formations do not have the quarterback drawn. We drew them in the spread formations so you’re able to get a visual of the quarterback in the shotgun with the running back next to them.

    • @Mike,

      The “# of personnel” is used as short hand for # of RB & TE respectively. 10 does not stand for the # of playerss on the field. It stands for/is short for 1 (RB) & 0 (TE). This saves time & is expressed as 10 personnel. Make sense?

  • Appreciate the article.

    Question that mostly applies to the HS level. When a team is in a “double wing” or standard flex-bone formation, with 1 TB, 2 TE/SE and 2 Wing Backs – what would the personnel grouping be considered?

    In your “13” personnel above, it seems like it’s a TE. However in a flex-bone attack, the WBs are more running threats. Interested to see your take on this.

    • Hey Kevin! It typically depends on how the coach wants to declare it. In the flexbone, coaches may consider the wings as WR’s it would be 12 personnel, or if they classify them as RB’s, it would be 32 personnel (3 RB’s and 2 TE’s). Hope that helps!

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