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Football: Running Back

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Running back in football
Source: US Navy
Running backs line up in the offensive backfield with the quarterback. They are the primary rushers on the team. They also catch short passes and provide extra blocking.

Skills Needed Halfback or Tailback

The primary rusher on the team is the tailback. The tailback is generally a fast, but strong player who can move quickly and with bursts of speed. Tailbacks use their vision and anticipation to follow their blocks and pick the right holes. When they see an opening they use their speed to dart through the hole and gain yardage. A powerful tailback can also break tackles.

Tailbacks also catch passes. These are usually short passes or even screen passes. Often the tailback will pretend to block and then drift out to take a short pass.


The fullback's main job is blocking. He clears the way for the tailback by running through the hole in the defensive line and blocking the linebacker. Fullbacks also help out and pass block on passing plays.

To a lesser extent, the fullback runs with the ball and occasionally catches passes. The fullback is a bigger and stronger running back than the tailback and is often used in short yardage situations where power is more important than speed or quickness.


Since running backs are the primary rushers on the team, their main skill is running with the ball. Some runners are power runners and gain yards by breaking tackles and running over players. Other runners are fast and quick. They gain yards by avoiding tacklers and outrunning them.


One skill all the best running backs must have is vision. This is the ability to survey the field and quickly pick the best spot to run to. An instinctive ability to run to the right spot can sometimes be more important than speed, power, or quickness.

Catching the Ball

In many offenses running backs play a key role in the passing game. They catch short passes out of the backfield. This is a great way to get your best runner the ball out in the open field where they can use their speed and quickness to gain yards.

Hanging onto the Ball

Despite how good a running back may be, they won't get much playing time if they can't hang on to the ball. A key statistic for any running back is the number of fumbles they have.

Pass Protection

In higher levels of play, like college and the NFL, running backs need to be able to pass block. They have to be able to figure out who is blitzing and then move to block them. A good block by the running back can make all the difference in giving the quarterback time to get a pass off.

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