FF101: Syllabus & Day 1

Submitted by Space Coyote on August 15th, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Football Fundamentals 101 Syllabus:

Opening Statement:

I’m MGoBlog member and professor of football larsonlo, and today I plan on starting a major (a series of diaries) based on football fundamentals.  If you wish, for this upcoming semester (which is an as of yet indeterminate length), you will be taking a crash course in football fundamentals.  I will be your professor for probably all of these classes, though, if you wish, you may ask several of my MGoBlog University colleagues if any questions arise.  We will start with the basics, FF 101 – The Fundamentals.  Whether this is an elective for you, a minor, your major of choice, or part of a dual major is up to you.  As of now, a master’s program has not been commissioned, though maybe someday one will be provided. 

As for my credentials: I’ve coached football, read a lot of football books, websites, etc. and have been to several football related conferences.  I’ve also participated in scouting and breaking down film.  You also may remember me from my previous paper (diary post) entitled ‘3-3-5 Fundamentals’.  This is now part of the FF201 – 3-3-5 Defense Series.

Before we continue, I would like to step back and focus on broader fundamentals of the game.  The goal in the end is to be able to discuss aspects of particular games that come up on a week by week basis, and hopefully break down some of the film so that you, the reader, can understand: 1) Where the problem occurred; 2) Why the problem occurred; and 3) How and why to fix the problem in the future.  In the end, I hope that all those that participate will earn their Bachelor of Science in Football Fundamentals.

Important note: This is in no way affiliated with the University of Michigan or any of its satellite Universities.  This is not an accredited institution.  Any degree you earn from this will not go to furthering your career, and will only provide you advanced knowledge with which to debate lesser educated football fans.  It may or may not improve your EA Sports NCAA Football abilities.  It may or may not actually make you a good coach.  It may or may not allow you to dominate your next touch football game at your next tailgate.

Important note 2: No quizzes or exams will be given.  No projects or homework will be assigned, though I may provide further reading.  If you want you can skip class.  I really don’t care what you do with this information.  Basically I’m like that one professor that your friend had that didn’t care at all about grades but you somehow managed to miss during your undergraduate education.  You’re welcome.


Day 1 – Terminology, Diagrams, Etc.

Day 2 – Offense

Day 3 – Defense

Day 4 – Offensive Line

Day 5 – Offensive Backfield

Day 6 – Receivers

Day 7 – Defensive Line

Day 8 – Linebackers

Day 9 – Defensive Backs

Day 10 – Special Teams


The Importance of This Class:

The reason I feel this can be an important inclusion into the MGoBlog community is because I, like most of you, have gained most of the moderate success I have through originally not understanding topics, ideas, etc. and striving to further my knowledge because, let’s face it, I hate not being smarter (i.e. better) than the people around me.  Football fans, as a mass, are uneducated.  They don’t know ass from elbows when it comes to many things, but most think they know their intergluteal cleft from their olecranon processes.  I would like to change that, at least as far as Michigan fans that visit MGoBlog is concerned.  This series will begin by discussing the very basic fundamentals, then the basics of offense, and then the fundamentals of defense, and possibly some fundamentals of special teams.  I hope to further that with a fundamental breakdown of the position groups.  This original class won’t necessarily relate directly to Michigan football, so may not interest all of you.  However, this is just FF 101, if you think you’ve taken the AP version of this already then maybe you can just sign up for when I teach the next step up. 

As I continue, I hope to delve further into the football coaching aspects, until it is not so much fundamentals as it is the small aspects of the game.  This series will be very cyclical in nature, at least I hope, in that we will start looking at the fundamentals as a whole, then break it down into units, and then positions, and this will then relate back to the team as a whole. 

I can’t promise this series will happen once a day, twice a week, or biweekly.  This series will come based on the amount of free time I manage to obtain.  Like I said though, the goal is to be able to eventually break down some film for the MGoCommunity, so hopefully by the start of the football season I will have established enough of a base from which to build on.  Furthermore, I would like to call on the other resident coaches out in the community for some of their input and assistance.  One thing I’ve learned through coaching is that I feel like I know a lot, but in actuality, know very little.  There are many others on this site that I feel can help, and their assistance, at least as far as answering questions posed in the comments, is greatly appreciated.

Semi-Important Note: I am far inferior in these design-y things as Brian, Six Zero, and many others around here.  My formatting may suck, and if I’m feeling rushed, my word usage may become very bland.  Frankly though I feel like my mastery of the English language is very… um… well… not bad?  Anyway, I’ll try not to make an ass out of myself, because most of you wouldn’t know it from my olecranon processes anyway… (hahaha, see what I did there, it wasn’t even funny and I still laughed because I’m the professor of the class and I can)

Another Note: I’m not one of the cool professors that just hands out the syllabus the first day.  We are actually going to start stuff here.

So without further adieu (Boy, those French, it’s like they have a different word for everything! (Another note(!!!): if it’s funny it’s most likely: a) not supposed to be; b) from Steve Martin; or c) from The Simpsons) )…


FF 101: Day 1 – Terminology, Diagrams, Etc.

Football is awesome. 


That deserved its own paragraph it’s so true.  However, with how true it is, it is partially so awesome that many don’t understand some of the concepts that would really help them understand the game.  Beyond understanding the basics, there is understanding the small intricacies.  For some, understanding these minute details doesn’t make the game any more enjoyable.  For me, the more you know (yes, like one of those NBC commercials) makes the game even exciting.  It also makes it much more demanding, and at times makes it that much more frustrating.

The object of football is simple.  Take an abnormally shaped ball and find a way to get it into a zone at the end of the field you are trying to score and stop the other team from doing the same – at least that’s how I explain it to my mom.  Some are more than happy to leave it at that complexity level, for some of the less competent and more towards the inebriated state in the student section, they may like that dumbed down a tad.  Well this isn’t for them.

Football, at its broadest level, is amazing because of the strength, speed, flexibility, and quickness of the athletes.  It is enticing because of the chess match that goes on between coaches and the instantaneous chess matches that take place on the field.  Reacting quickly and playing smart are just as fundamental as hitting harder and running faster.  And neither succeeds without the other.  And neither succeeds outside of the mental aspect that comes along with it.

Most of us love football partly because of those reasons.  Many of us love football even more for reasons that can’t be quantified by ideas, words, or theories.  Still, it is always nice to better understand something we love so much, unfortunately, that isn’t always easy.  To help others understand requires communication.  My goal is to communicate to the MGoMasses these ideas.  To do that we need to set a foundation, which is what I plan on doing with this insertion into the series.  Many will have heard or seen some of the things I talk about or diagram very differently.  It is important to note that the terminology I use may be completely different than the terminology Rich Rod uses, which may be completely different than what Lloyd Carr used, which is probably very different from what Mack Brown uses.  Terminology is a funny thing in that you get so used to calling something one thing, then someone up and switches it on you.  That’s part of the fun (or annoyance) of the game I guess.

So today I will set a foundation which will be built on later.  This can be referred back to if any confusion arises about with what I am talking about.  Most of this is going to be very simple and obvious.  Hopefully it will get more interesting as more diaries are added, but because MGoBlog attracts so many different people it is necessary to catch everyone up first, and establish a single base from which to build from.



Quarterback – QB

Tailback – TB

Fullback – FB

Halfback – HB / H

Tight End – TE

Wide Receiver – WR

Flanker – FL

Slot Receiver – SR

Split End – SE

Wing – W

Offensive Tackle – T or OT

Offensive Guard – G or OG

Center – C


Defensive Tackle – DT

Nose Tackle – NT

Defensive Guard – DG or NG(won’t use much but just to throw it out there)

Linebacker - LB

Outside Linebacker – OLB

Strongside Outside Linebacker – S or Sam

Weakside Outside Linebacker – W or Will

Middle Linebacker – M or Mike or MLB

Strong Safety – SS

Free Safety – FS or F

Spur – $ (Closer to Will than SS)

Bandit – B (Closer to SS than LB)

Cornerback – CB

Defensive Back – DB

Special Teams:

Kicker – K

Punter – P

Long Snapper – LS

Punt Returner – PR

Kick Returner – KR

Holder – H

Other Abbreviations:

Line of Scrimmage – LOS

Play Action – PA

Holes/ Gaps:


On offense the holes are numbered from 1 to 8 (though I’ve seen zero to 9).  The odd numbers are to the left, even to the right.  Start with 1 to the left of the center, 3 to the left of the guard, 5 to the left of the tackle (off tackle), 7 to the anywhere left of the tight end.  On the other side, 2 to the right of the center, 4 to the right of the guard, 6 to the right of the tackle (off tackle), and 8 anywhere to the right of the tight end’s location.


This is the numbering system I’ll be using, where the dark circle with the X is the center:

(EDIT)Basically, the defensive numbering system counts the offensive linemen's shoulders and helmets, starting at the Center's shoulder.  So Center's shoulder is zero, Guard's inside shoulder 1, Guard's helmet is 2, Guard's outside shoulder is 3 and so on.  From what I've learned, the reason for 4i(nside) and 4 is to keep the even numbers the helmets.  After 5 for the Tackle's outside shoulder, it resumes with what would have been the normal numbering system if instead of 4i, 4, 5 it was 4, 5, 6.  This means the tight end's inside shoulder is 7, his helmet 8, and outside of that is 9.  Note, that for linebackers, the numbering system adds a zero to the end.  For example, if a LB is lined up off the line, but stacked above a 4-tech DE, he would be playing a 40 technique.


To quote Wikipedia (because I’m already being lazy):

“American football is played on a field 360 by 160 feet (120.0 by 53.3 yards; 109.7 by 48.8 meters).[14] The longer boundary lines are sidelines, while the shorter boundary lines are end lines. Sidelines and end lines are out of bounds. Near each end of the field is a goal line; they are 100 yards (91.4 m) apart. A scoring area called an end zone extends 10 yards (9.1 m) beyond each goal line to each end line. The end zone includes the goal line but not the end line.[14] While the playing field is effectively flat, it is common for a field to be built with a slight crown—with the middle of the field higher than the sides—to allow water to drain from the field.

Yard lines cross the field every 5 yards (4.6 m), and are numbered every 10 yards from each goal line to the 50-yard line, or midfield (similar to a typical rugby league field). Two rows of short lines, known as inbounds lines or hash marks, run at 1-yard (91.4 cm) intervals perpendicular to the sidelines near the middle of the field. All plays start with the ball on or between the hash marks. Because of the arrangement of the lines, the field is occasionally referred to as a gridiron.

At the back of each end zone are two goalposts (also called uprights) connected by a crossbar 10 feet (3.05 m) from the ground. For high skill levels, the posts are 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m) apart. For lower skill levels, these are widened to 23 feet 4 inches (7.11 m).”

Also to note, you defend your own endzone.  So when we are on the opponent’s side of the field, we are on the side of the 50 yard line towards the end we are trying to score.





So this is it, I’m going for it.  These are some of the terms I will be using and the way my diagrams should read.  My next installment will go over some basic philosophies, positions, some very basic formations, a bit more terminology that will be used to denote plays, and maybe a few surprises.  From there I plan on covering the defense, then breaking down the offensive units and defensive units, and then maybe some special teams because we love them too.  Hopefully by the time the season comes a basic understanding will be made and we can then start to dissect some film. 

I'm pretty busy tonight and was originally intending to post these each individually, but I've fallen behind a bit due to my schedule.  Tomorrow or the next day I plan on posting FF101 Day 2 and 3 which should cover the basics of the offense and defense.  From there I hope to start breaking down some position groups and hopefully post another FF 201 (about the 3-3-5) within the next week or so.  

In all honesty though, I think there are many other important if not essential diaries, and I really don't feel like cluttering it up with all my stuff.  So when I see a few new diary postings I will probably shy away from posting one of these.  I hope these are useful, let me know if you have any suggestions as far as formatting or things you would like me to talk about or if I have errors or something.  Again, I encourage other coaches to help out if they can because: 1) It helps me out; 2) It teaches me things (every coach knows different things); 3) It helps make our fan base and the mgoblog community that much smarter when it comes to football.  I don't know everything about football, I just act like I do because that makes me more convincing.  Still, my word isn't the end all be all.  Thanks in advance for all the help and suggestions from everyone.



August 15th, 2010 at 10:08 PM ^

This is amazing, and if the first day is any indication, will be a great crash course going forward for those of us who never played football. Thanks a lot professor.


August 15th, 2010 at 10:31 PM ^

I love this and look foward to each installment in the series.

I'll note that last night in the Lions pre-season game, the color analyst Rob Rubick noted that it is possible to be more detail oriented in describing specific plays and schemes today than it was 10 or 20 years ago and he credited that partially to video games and how they require a player to know more things about coverage and scheme and alignment and that this knowledge translates directly to the viewing experience.

Also, football is awesome.  I love this as the course's mission statement.


August 15th, 2010 at 10:36 PM ^

I plan to read this more fully later on, but I wanted to say thanks right away. This type of thing is perfect for people who are looking to learn a bit more about what's actually going on besides, "That guy has the ball! He's running toward the end of the field! No one has tackled him! Points!"

Also, I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion in the comments about different aspects of the "classes" so that will be informative as well.


kevin holt

August 15th, 2010 at 11:31 PM ^

Don't hesitate to post even when there are new diaries! As long as all 5 on the sidebar aren't new that day, that is.

But I am very ready for this course. I'm gonna ace it, hopefully.

Just as a sidenote, I love defense, and I can't wait for the next FF201 lecture (post). It's a weird thing that happened recently, in almost all sports, I suddenly have this intrigue with defense. I coach lacrosse, and the same thing happened there. I played offense my whole career, then started coaching and realized how much I love coaching and designing/implementing different defensive schemes. Same happened with hockey, among some other various sports that I didn't play.


August 15th, 2010 at 11:35 PM ^

Wow, great job!  I will be reading more later in the series, but this is just one more example that shows how diverse, enthusiastic, and well educated MGoBlog and Michigan's fan base truly is.


August 16th, 2010 at 11:06 AM ^

the question "Why no #6?"...which should appear on the Tight End's inside shoulder. 

I guess you could ask, "Why not 6i, 6, 7 instead of 7,8,9?"  But at some point it is a numbering convention and it has to make enough sense that we can remember it, but we don't have to dissect it too closely.


August 16th, 2010 at 12:36 AM ^

I have to admit I not only loved the diary post I recommended my wife tune in also. She loved the first edition and is excited about having a competent teacher, (regretably I am not) to teach her not only the basics but also the nuances about the game we all love. Looking forward to future posts! Thanks!

big sister

August 16th, 2010 at 12:41 AM ^

This is EXACTLY what I've been needing. I've never played organized football (being a girl and all) but I do love the game. I like to think that I know more than the average female, but really I just know the basics such as position types, scoring, and penalties. To be honest, reading about the intricacies, especially on defense, I kind of have no idea what's going on.
So thank you for taking the time to create these and educate fellow readers. And look forward to lots of questions from me (probably really obvious, dumb ones) in the comment section. But I've been wanting to learn more for awhile.

Transatlantic Flight

August 16th, 2010 at 1:50 AM ^

Maybe it's just me, but the defensive numbering system is really confusing. I understand the offense with the numbered holes, but if you get a chance to edit this it would be nice to have that explained a bit more.

Blue 8198

August 16th, 2010 at 10:34 AM ^

I'm sure I will be learning some things but, better still, I am sharing this with wife and teenage daughters who accompany me to M games.  Hopefully, this season I can spend more time watching what is happening on the field rather than explaining what just happened.


August 16th, 2010 at 11:20 AM ^

This a awesome idea and I loved this first post. I will be greatly looking forward to your future posts about this so I can learn all the nuances and the little things of this great game.


August 16th, 2010 at 1:51 PM ^

already learned several things, and sheepishly admit I have often wondered why the guy was an OFF tackle--didn't he need to be on? Did he rush someone other than the ball? Ha!


August 16th, 2010 at 6:52 PM ^

This was really helpful. I've seen it before from Sharik and other posters, but laying it out so clearly really helped solidify my memory.

I need a little clarification, if you could. What is the difference between a DT and a DE (or a DG, although you say it probably won't be used)? Is it as simple as Tackles are on the interior of the line, and Ends are at the ends? In the 3-3-5, is our line DE  NT  DE?

Also, one thing I have never figured out are the offensive formation rules. I know this was just day one, but hopefully you will cover that in the future. I know that you have to have 7 guys on the LOS, but I get really confused when they talk about eligible receivers, and covered/uncovered, etc. If you could explain that, I would really appreciate it.

Lastly, as they come up, will you be explaining differences between NCAA and NFL? I'm a big fan of both, and I would like to understand both as much as possible.

Thank you!


August 17th, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

Yes, the defensive tackles line up inside. In a 4-3 defense, you typically have two defensive ends on the outside and two defensive tackles on the inside. In a 3-4, there's only one inside guy, and that's the nose tackle (NT) - the others are ends. However, linemen might switch around, even between plays in the same series.

Because they are in different places, ends and tackles often have somewhat different roles, and are taking on different offensive players. Ends are often faster, and are more responsible for generating a pass rush and/or keeping the QB contained. Tackles are often bigger, and are responsible for gumming up the middle, keeping offensive linemen from getting blocks on the linebackers, or disrupting the blocking. This is often particularly true for the NT, who has the center and often one or more guards to contend with. Some people maintain that the best NT is a short, extremely heavy and strong guy who won't get pushed around.

The offensive formation rules are pretty basic. You need 7 guys on the line of scrimmage. The outside guys are eligible - they can legally catch or run with the ball. You get some funny formations where a lineman is eligible if you don't have anyone on the line of scrimmage outside of him (he's 'uncovered' in that case). Michigan did this a fair amount in RR's first year, which annoyed Brian. There are other pre-snap rules which I am much hazier on - no more than one guy moving around at a time pre-snap, all the line has to be set for a moment. Illegal procedure calls happen when these get screwed up. But I think really the 7 guys on the LoS is the main one.

College and NFL,differences I'm hazy on, as I don't watch the NFL. Here are three: NFL receivers must catch a pass with both feet in bounds, while in college you only need one. The clock doesn't stop on a first down in NFL. And they have 2-minute warnings. I'm sure there's other stuff, but off the top those are the ones that impact play the most.


August 16th, 2010 at 11:49 PM ^

This is great.  Maybe they can become a section under the useful stuff tab so that they don't fade away into oblivion as more things get posted.  I'm sure that I'll have to read them more than once.  Thanks.


August 17th, 2010 at 1:32 PM ^

Wow, this is awesome.  Much appreciated for sure, and I will certainly attend more frequently than I did Orgo (which, if i read the next one brings me to 2, one more than Orgo), +1 for sure.