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Everything You Need to Know About Football

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Alabama chapter.

Football season is back, baby! College football and NFL are now in full swing, and we couldn’t be more excited!

College football where I’m from isn’t a huge deal, but since becoming part of the SEC, I’ve learned it’s practically a religion.

After numerous Alabama games, NFL YouTube videos, and conversations with my brother, here is everything you need to know to understand an American football game!


The Basics

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American football is played on a 100-yard field broken down in 10 yard increments with an end zone on each end of the field. There are four 15-minute quarters with a 12 minute halftime. Only 11 players from each team are allowed on the field at once, and each team is broken down into three units: offense, defense and special teams (used for kickoffs and field goals).


The Points

There are four possible ways to earn points in American football. A touchdown is worth six points, at which point the coach can decide to kick an extra point or go for a two-point conversion. A field goal is worth three points, which is different from an extra point. Lastly, a safety is worth two points; this is when a player with a ball is tackled or when the ball is fumbled in his own end zone.


The Offense

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The offense players are the ones who are in charge of the the ball. Their goal is to get the ball into the end zone for a touchdown and put points on the board.


Offensive Players

Quarterback: The QB is leader of the offense. He is positioned behind the center and directs a team’s offensive play.

Center: This player snaps the ball between his legs to the quarterback at the start of each play.

Left and Right Guard: These players are primarily used for blocking on either side of the center.

Left and Right Tackle: These players are primarily used for blocking on either end of the offensive line.

Running Back: This player receives handoffs from the quarterback for a rushing play. He can also catch passes from out of the backfield and block.

Tight End: Positioned next to an offensive tackle, this player blocks or catches passes depending on the play.

Wide Receiver: These players catch the ball thrown by the quarterback. There can be two to four receivers on the field depending on the play.


The Defense

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The defensive players are the ones defending their end zone. Their job is to stop the opposing offensive team from moving the ball down the field to score.


Defensive Players

Defensive Tackle: These players block offensive linemen and tackle ball carriers.

Defensive End: One or two of these players also block offensive linemen and tackle ball carriers.

Linebacker: These players defend a run, put pressure on the quarterback, and are responsible for man-on-man coverage.

Safety: There are two safety players- a strong safety and a free safety. Similar to linebackers, they are responsible for shadowing the offensive receivers.

Cornerback: These players cover receivers, defend against pass plays, and make tackles.


The Special Team

Photo by Keith Johnston on Unsplash

The special team players are the ones on the field for any kicking plays.


Special Team Players

Kicker: This player is responsible for kickoffs, field goals, and extra points.

Punter: Their job is to kick the ball towards the opposing team to limit any field position advantage (typically seen during the fourth down). Basically, they want to put the most distance between their end zone and the opposing team.


The Terminology

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Line of Scrimmage: the line separating the teams at the beginning of a play

False Start: when an offensive player moves before the snap of the ball

Blitz: when a number of linebackers and linemen players rush the opposing quarterback in order to sack the QB in the backfield

Sack: when the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage

Flag on the Play: a referee will throw a yellow flag into the air indicating a penalty has occurred during the play

Red Flag: a coach can throw a red flag to indicate to the referee that they would like the previous play reviewed

First Down: the first of four attempts to move the ball at least 10 yards

Fumble: when a player loses control or possession of the ball before scoring or being tackled

Interception: when a defensive player on one team catches a pass from the opposing quarterback

Photo via Pixabay

It took me awhile, but now when I ask my brother a football question, I can actually understand the terminology he uses in his answers. By understanding the basics, you’ll be able to cheer on your team every weekend with new found confidence!


With that, Roll Tide and Go Big Blue!

Sami Shephard

Alabama '19

Sami Shephard is a senior at the University of Alabama studying Advertising and Spanish. Her hobbies include bread, Game of Thrones, and her dog, Phoebe. When she's not in class, she can be found taking a spin class, watching a romantic comedy, or planning her next adventure.
Kristen is a senior at The University of Alabama majoring in English and minoring in journalism and creative writing. She loves music festivals, reading, Alabama Football, and binge watching Food Network. She serves as Health Chair for the Beta Rho Chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon. After graduation, she will be moving to Indianapolis to teach through Teach For America.