Teach Your Players The Proper Football Positions
Most football players have highly specialized roles. At the college and NFL levels, most play only offense or only defense.
The offensive line (OL) consists of five players whose job is to protect the passer and clear the way for runners by blocking members of the defense. Except for the center, offensive linemen generally do not handle the ball. In most cases, offensive linemen are given numbers in the 50s, 60s, or 70s.
The quarterback (QB) receives the snap on most plays. He then hands or tosses it to a running back, throws it to a receiver or runs with it himself. A quarterback typically has a number from 1 to 19.
Running backs (RB) line up behind or beside the QB and specialize in running with the ball. They also block, catch passes and, on rare occasions, pass the ball to others. If a team has two running backs in the game, usually one will be a halfback (HB) or tailback (TB), who is more likely to run with the ball, and the other will usually be a fullback (FB), who is more likely to block. Running backs in the NFL are numbered in the 20s, 30s, or 40s. College and high school running backs often use numbers from 1 to 19 as well.
Wide receivers (WR) line up near the sidelines. They specialize in catching passes. A majority of NFL wide receivers have numbers in the 80s, while some have numbers from 10 to 19.
Tight ends (TE) line up outside the offensive line. They can either play like wide receivers (catch passes) or like offensive linemen (protect the QB or create spaces for runners). Most NFL tight ends are numbered in the 80s, a few may have numbers in the 40s. College and high school tight ends are usually numbered similar to wide receivers.
Not all of these types of players will be on the field for every offensive play. Teams can vary the number of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs on the field at one time.
The defensive line consists of three to six players who line up immediately across from the offensive line. They try to tackle the running backs before they can gain yardage or the quarterback before he can throw a pass. Defensive linemen in the NFL have numbers in the 60s, 70s, or 90s.
In most situations, at least three players line up as defensive backs (commonly known as safeties or cornerbacks). They cover the receivers and try to stop pass completions. They occasionally rush the quarterback. Defensive backs have numbers in the 20s, 30s, or 40s. In college or high school they may use any number from 1 to 49.
The other players on the defense are known as linebackers. They line up between the defensive line and defensive backs and may either rush the quarterback or cover potential receivers. All NFL linebackers use numbers in the 50s or 90s. At the college and high school levels, numbers in the 40s are common, as are single digits.
The units of players who handle kicking plays are known as "special teams". Two important special-teams players are the "punter", who handles punts, and the "placekicker" or "kicker", who kicks off and attempts field goals and extra points. Kickers in the NFL are numbered like the quarterbacks, using numbers from 1 to 19, but in college and high school they can have any number they want.