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The backfield is the area of an American football field behind the line of scrimmage. The backfield or offensive backfield can also refer to members of offense who begin plays behind the line, typically including any backs on the field, such as the quarterback, halfbacks, and/or fullback.

Play in the backfield[edit]

Most running plays begin with a hand-off in the backfield. Most kicks and punts also take place in the backfield. If the offensive ball-carrier is tackled in the backfield, the team will lose yards, in that the distance they need to attain for a first down is more than at the beginning of the play.


There are many rules which differ for play in the backfield as opposed to play in front of the line of scrimmage. The 1906 football rule reforms mandated that offenses use at least seven down linemen. Therefore, a maximum of four players are allowed in the backfield. The other players not on the line may be positioned anywhere, but all must be at least 1 yard behind the seven or more players on the line of scrimmage.[1] The traditional saying is "7 on the line, 4 in the backfield" but this is something of a misnomer, as "backfield" usually refers to the area directly behind the offensive line. 3 of the 4 "backfield" players (i.e., the 3 not receiving the snap from center) may line up as wide receivers as long as they are behind the line of scrimmage; these are known as slot receivers if between the ends, and flankers if outside the ends. A forward pass can only be legally made from the backfield.


The division between line and backs is often traced to Amos Alonzo Stagg.[2] Some of the greatest backfields in the history of college football include those of the 1912 Carlisle Indians, 1917 Georgia Tech Golden Tornado, 1924 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and 1945 Army Cadets. Joe Guyon was a member of both the aforementioned Carlisle and Georgia Tech teams.

Typically, quarterbacks or halfbacks passed the ball, and fullbacks handled kicking duties.