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Football Formations

Football formations are designed to give the offense. or defense an advantage over their opponent. At every level of football, the one constant in every formations will be the offensive line, usually consisting of a left and right side,or a left and right guard,left and right tackle and a center.
Every offensive, defensive and special team play starts with each team lining up in a unique formation.

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Offensive Football Formations

These main five positions are often referred to collectively as the “line”, and have the main role of blocking. Seven players need to be, by rule on the line of scrimmage, so there must be a couple of additional players called Ends. These players are eligible receivers and may play near the linemen (tight ends) or even farther away (split conclusion or wide receiver). Many teams play additional players near (but still away) the line of scrimmage to act as added pass receivers.
There are a few basic football formation rules which include:




  • The football formation must include at least players on the line of scrimmage
  • The other 4, or less players, must line up at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage
  • All players, both on and off the line of scrimmage, can line up sideline to sideline.
  • The last player on the line of scrimmage, on both the left and right side of the football formation, are eligible to go out for passes.
  • All players on offense must be “set” for at least one second before the ball is hiked.  Being set is defined as remaining totaly still, without any movement.
  • The offense may place one of the four backfield players in action after the set when they snap the ball. The action must be either parallel to or (if inside the backfield) away from the road of scrimmage, but only after the ball is snapped; certain types of sports such as arena sports allow forward motion on the snap. In Canadian football, all of the gamers in the backfield can be in motion, in any path, at the time of the particular snap, as long as they haven’t yet crossed the line regarding scrimmage before the snap. 

Examples of Offensive Football Formations


T Football Formation








The T formation could be the precursor to most modern day football formations, in that it places the quarterback directly under center (in contrast to it’s main competitor of its evening, the single wing, which had the quarterback receiving the particular ball on the soar).
It consists of three running backs lined up back to back about five yards at the rear of the quarterback, forming the design of a T. It may feature two tight ends (known as the Power Big T) or one tight end and a wide receiver (in this case known as a split end).
One variation of the T-Formation would be exactly where all the runningbacks would be closer than usual, being at fullback depth rather than halfback depth. Another variation of the “balanced” T football formation is the “unbalanced T” formation. In this settings the line of scrimmage has an end and also tackle left of middle, while to the right of the center are two guards, a tackle and a tight end.
This creates a line that is weighted in the direction of the right of the middle. With the backfield setting up in the standard “T” football formation, behind the center, (qb, two halfbacks and fullback), the resulting configuration will be “unbalanced” because of the asymmetry of the placement of the linemen.


I Football Formation





Basic I football formation.

This is one of the most common football formations used at all age and skill levels of football. It consists of a couple of backs lined up behind the quarterback, with the back closest to the qb being called the fullback and the back behind the fullback called the particular running back, tailback, or even I-back. The two backs line up both in a line (consequently the name of the development since it looks like a letter I) or with the fullback “offset” to either side. The fourth back again is most commonly used as an extra receiver or a slot receiver.

Another variation of the basic I football formation is the Power I where the two fullbacks line up next to each other with the half back alligned right behind them, in line with the center.  Below is a diagram of the Power I football formation.





Power I football formation

Single Back or Spread football formation





Spread football formation

The spread formation employs 4 wide receivers and no tight ends. In the NFL, this football formation was the cornerstone of the Run & Shoot offense that was used in the 1980s with teams such as the Detroit Lions and the Houston Oilers but has since fallen out of favour as a primary football formation. It has remained a popular passing down football formation.

It is employed as a pass football formation, because of the added wide receivers. It also can be used as an effective run football formation, because it “spreads the field”, from sideline to sideline, and forces the protection to respect the passing game, thus taking players out of the box.

Pro Set Football Formations





Basic split backs set

The Pro Set football formation is also namedthe “split backs” or “three-end formation”, which resembles the I-formation and shares the identical tweaks. The main difference is that the two backs are split behind the quarterback instead of being lined up behind him.

Single Wing Football Formation





Typical Single Wing set. Note the unbalanced line. “C” will snap the ball, even though he is not strictly in the center.

This “old school” football formation has been popular for most of the first fifty years of modern American football, but it is unusual today, except as a trick football formation. There are many versions of the single wing football formation with really the only common thread being that, instead of lining up “beneath center”, the quarterback is lined up several yards behind with RBs on either side of him. The ball is snapped directly to one of the backs and skips the standard quarterback center exchange.The quarterback in this formation (called at the time the “single-wing tailback”), like present day shotgun QB, received the actual snap on the travel. The other 3 backs lined up on the same part of the QB in a variety of arrangements. Also, the formation frequently featured an unbalanced line where the center (which is, the player who snapped the ball) was not totally in the center of the complete line, but close to the weakside. The formation was at first designed as a incredible-force running creation, since it had six players to one part of the center and also only 3 on the other. Rockne’s innovations with this development involved using complicated backfield shifts and motion to confuse defenses, and adapting it as a passing formation. The single wing has recently had a renaissance of sorts with youth football programs; since it is unusual and rare, making it hard to defend.



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