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What Does 21 12 11 & 10 Personnel Mean In Football?

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”. The personnel number helps coaches on the sideline during a game.

The number system is used to identify the number of running backs and tight ends in the game. For example, 21 personnel means 2 running backs and 1 tight end.

In this article, we will show you what personnel means in football and why it’s important.

Personnel In Football

The receivers are not listed in the personnel grouping number. Offensive rules indicate the offense may have 5 eligible players to touch the football; the remaining number is the wide receivers. For example:

2 running backs + 1 Tight End = 21 Personnel
2 running backs + 1 Tight End= 3 Eligible Receivers

Because there are 3 eligible receivers with running backs and tight ends, there must be 2 wide/slot receivers in the formation. Another common example would be:

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

Now we know that there is only 1 running back, it must mean there are 4 wide/slot receivers on the play. This knowledge helps defenses properly match up with offenses from a speed/power standpoint.

We’re going to break down the different types of formations that come with different personnel groupings. This will give you a clearer picture of what the offense is trying to accomplish when set 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, teams like Kansas City and New England both carry fullbacks, proving to be a pivotal part of 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 at the same time. Both players match up extremely well against linebackers and have the capability to block effectively.

As mentioned, 22 personnel has 2 running backs, 2 tight ends, and 1 receiver in the game. Due to the “bigger” personnel on the field, defenses are more apt to put bigger linemen on the field to match size for size.

the football handbook

10 Personnel

10 personnel

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

10 Personnel is common for teams that spread the football around the field. As shown above, doubles and trips are common formations when in 10 personnel. Also, common 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 been able to use 11 personnel to both runs from the spread and attack the middle of the field.

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 in our blog about the power play.

13 Personnel

13 personnel

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

3 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 as 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

Like Learning Football? Check out our football handbook to learn more schemes, techniques, and philosophies!

Related Q & A

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 by using these two positions, as stopping the run is most important to a defense’s personnel.

What If There’s More Than 2 Running Backs?

If there are more than 2 running backs ( such as a wing T, which has 1 fullback and 2 wings), it all depends on how the coach wants to classify it. Because those wings may turn into slot receivers, it may be worth categorizing them as 10 personnel. If it’s a run dominant 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. Often, college or pro teams will 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.


Saturday 4th of January 2020

I can't really make sense here, some of your formations have 10 men not 11.

Gerald Wanty

Wednesday 15th of September 2021


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?


Sunday 5th of January 2020

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.

Graydon Lahmers

Wednesday 1st of January 2020

when a ā€œPā€ is added such as 11P or 12P what does this mean vs. a regular 11 or 12 formation.


Wednesday 1st of January 2020

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.