The Backfield: J.R. Simmons

Film Breakdown

MOHSFOOTBALL.COM Staff – Part 2 – The Backfield


This is the second article of a three-part series on Film Breakdown by the staff

Part 1 of our series examined stock columns such as Down, Distance, Yard, Hash and Play Type, and how to maximize the data gathered from them.  We also discussed how the grouping of distances into short, medium and long does not exactly show an opponent’s true tendencies.   If you have not had a chance to read that article, you can do so by clicking here.  Part 2 of the series will examine the Backfield and a unique way to make sure that no matter what your opponent does, you have a way to tag it.

As a side note, as this article was beginning to take shape, Hudl reported that they will be using Backfield as part of their Hudl Assist feature this year.  A coach will be able to label various backfield formations, as previously done with offensive formations, and the assist feature will remember and label them for you (as long as you pay for Hudl Assist).  Upon hearing this information, the first thought that came to mind was, it will be interesting to see what they believe constitutes the Backfield, which is where we will start this article.

The Backfield

When it comes to the backfield, you more than likely have had to answer the following questions at some point as a staff or individual:

Who is exactly in the backfield?

Is a Wing included?

Is an H-Back or Sniffer included?

How far out from the Tackle or Tight End does a player have to be to NOT be in the Backfield?

What about a man in motion that is in the Backfield when the ball is snapped? Do you count him?

The answers to all of these questions help determine your backfield labeling.  If you are so inclined to do a quick search of “Offensive Backfield” in Google, it will provide you these common themes:

The area behind the line of scrimmage

Almost every play begins in the backfield

Players stationed behind the linemen are in the backfield

Even though this is fairly simplistic, it does provide some guidelines for who to label and who not to.  If you are facing a one back team and the quarterback is primarily under center, you may only label the lone running back.  The designation for that backfield could be “Single,” “One Back,” “Solo,” etc.  Breaking down film on a Wing-T team would mandate labels similar to “T-Strong,” “T-Weak,” “Wing Left T Weak” or “Wing Right T Strong.”   With the advent of the “Sniffer” or “Super Backs” that many teams employ, the labeling of that backfield can get almost as wordy as the Wing T, such as “Sniffer Left Gun Right” or if you want to get really creative “SLGR”, as long as you can remember what that means.  Regardless, in breaking down an opponent’s backfield, it is going to take some time and our eyes start to play tricks on us after about 70 plays. 

If your staff is happy with how they are currently labeling the backfield, that is obviously great!  Yet, what if you could change all those words into numbers and get the same result?  It would take some “rewiring” of your brain, but most people can type a “4”, faster than they can type “Gun Right” or even “GR.”

A simple numbering system

            Glance at the diagram below and think about the words you are currently using to label the Backfield and then translate those words into numbers. 

Using some of the examples mentioned above and a few others, this is how it would translate: 

Gun Right = 4

Gun Left = 5

Pistol = 0

Sniffer Left, Gun Right = 14

Wing Right T Weak = 635

I Formation = 30

Offset I= 40 or 50

As stated previously, it will take some brain rewiring to make the numbering system as unconscious to you as your current system, but it IS faster to type in.  The examples above, using letters and words equals 70+ keyboard entries, using just the numbers equals 14 (counting both Offset I’s).  That is 80% less typing, which equates to more time saved breaking down film to achieve the same result.

What direction or sequence should you label it?

If you decide this is the system for you, you will have to make a decision on what sequence you will label it.  Using a Wing-T example, you could go lowest number to highest number (e.g. 346), highest to lowest (e.g. 643), left to right (e.g. 346), etc.  All of these numbers are the same backfield alignment, just different ways of doing it.  You will obviously have to choose one, because if you use some combination of all three, you are going to have three different backfield sets on your report that are the same backfield alignment. 


            You and your staff obviously have to do what you feel comfortable with in labeling the Backfield, but if you have some free time, try part of a game this off-season using the numbering system.

            Part 3 of the series will discuss a way of looking at labeling the alignment of Wide Receivers.