Depending on the coach’s scheme, running backs and wide receivers are often referred to by different names. These names are often tagged with “backs” on their end, signifying they are behind the quarterback in some fashion.
A fullback is a player that lines up directly behind the quarterback. This player is used for blocking and running the ball in short-yardage situations. The fullback is often a shorter, muscular player who blocks well in the middle.
Backs, such as the fullback, are often responsible for carrying, blocking, and catching the football. The fullback, in particular, has slowly started to make its way out of football, as teams are moving more toward spread offenses that eliminate the fullback position.
In this article, we will cover the different types of backs that are often used in football.
While we’re going through the different names of the backs, it’s important to note that most of these names have been made up by coaches that may identify different backs in different ways.
This is strictly a guide for the most commonly used names for each position. They may change based on the coach’s system.
Backs In Football
The back in football gets its name because it is behind or “back” of the quarterback. This player oftentimes gets the football and runs with it or catches a short pass out of the backfield.
Let’s dive into the different types of backs and how they impact the game of football.
The first back is the fullback. The fullback is often seen as the player that lines up between the quarterback and the running back. This player is often responsible for:
- Running the football when handed off.
- Catching the football out of the backfield
- Most commonly, blocking for the running back
This is what a fullback looks like when watching a professional game, lining up between the running back (last person on the left) and the quarterback.
The fullback is rarely used in spread offenses. As teams move to more 4 and 5 receiver sets, there’s no more use to having a thick, stalky player that can block linebackers.
Fullbacks are commonly used in schemes that use “I formations,” or their philosophy is to run the football most of the time.
Fullbacks are great when needing a more athletic lineman to block linebackers and defensive ends in space.
However, they’re not so great in spread formations. They are easily covered by nickel backs and often don’t serve a purpose in the spread passing game.
This is why the fullback position is rarely used in professional, college, and high school football.
The wing-back is often referred to as the running back that lines up on the offensive line’s edge, often facing the quarterback.
The wing-back is common in most “wing-T” and double wing formations that move in slow motion before the play. This player often acts as a decoy or will receive the ball on a power sweep.
“Wings,” as they’re often referred to, play an important role in offenses that rely on speed to get to the perimeter. Here’s a picture of a wing-back in a standard formation. Here’s a visual of what a wing-back looks like:
If you notice, the two white players on the outsides face each other; those are the wing-backs in this particular instance.
Referencing the picture above again, Halfbacks can also be referenced as wing-backs. The team that uses three running backs will often name the running back behind the quarterback as their “fullback,” The two wings on the side can also be called half-backs.
As mentioned, this is completely up to the coach’s discretion and decides to name the players in his formation.
Halfbacks can also be named for players who stand directly behind the fullback in an I-formation. Coaches will call this player a halfback, and they are standing behind the fullback.
A slotback is a player who often lines up in the “slot” position. The slot position is often located in between the widest wide receiver and the offensive tackle. This is also known as a “slot receiver.”
The slotback is typically able to catch the football from the quarterback but can also run the football on jet/fly sweeps across the field.
These players are often smaller and quicker as they must run away from speedier defensive players.
Last, the H-back is a new and emerging position that’s starting to show up in many spread offenses. The H-back is a mix between a wide receiver and an offensive lineman.
What makes the H-back special is their size and ability to create mismatches with linebackers.
For example, Rob Gronkowski, former New England Patriot great, was an H-back. He’s a player who could line up in the backfield to lead block, catch passes, and block a defensive lineman.
H-backs, as mentioned, are often taller, more physical players. Rob Gronkowski measured in at 6’6, 265 pounds.
In most offenses, H-backs are just another name for a tight end. However, this player is skilled athletically where they can line up anywhere on the field.
H-backs play a valuable role in running plays like split zone or any wham plays.
Often announcers and football coaches will have their own spin on formations and player positions. The names of the position are often categorized by where they are standing on the field.
Full, half, and wing backs are primarily used behind the quarterback in running back positions. Slot and H-backs are used more horizontally to the quarterback to catch the ball.
When watching the football game, see if you can identify what players are which. Soon you’ll be identifying X, Y, Z receivers as your knowledge continues to grow.
What do you notice that’s different about what is said compared to what you already know? We’re always looking for different verbiage and different ways to identify positions. Let us know in the comment section below.
Let’s keep learning! Our learning center is packed with information regarding technique, scheme, and more!
If you’re looking for more in-depth breakdowns & coaching resources, visit our coaching resource page here.
Also, be sure to check out our complete football guide to learn more about how these fullbacks operate in the game of football.