Football X's and O's 101 for Coach's #1 Fan: Offense

Football X's and O's 101 for Coach's #1 Fan: Offense

Did you recently start dating a coach? Are you tired of wondering if the bleacher coaches actually know what they're talking about? If you're a coach's wife or a fan in the stands who gets a little lost during chats with your husband, son, dad, or other football fanatics, this post is for YOU! Here's a simple guide with the X's and O's to help you understand the basics of football. In layman's terms, of course! ;)


Let’s start with some basic key points and definitions:

American Football is a competition where 2 teams compete for four quarters (time will differ among the different leagues). The goal is to score more points than your opponent.
Only 22 players can be on the field at one time. 11 on offense and 11 on defense or 11 from each special teams unit.
Offense: The team that currently has possession of the football.
Defense: The team that is currently trying to stop the other team from scoring.
Special Teams: The players who are on the field during kickoff and punts.
Line of Scrimmage: Imaginary line where the ball is placed on the field during play. Neither team can cross this line until the ball has been snapped by the center lineman on offense.
Down: A period of play where the ball is trying to be advanced. The offense has 4 tries to advance the ball 10 yards.
Drive: Series of plays when one team has possession of the football. The drive ends when the team has either punted, turned the ball over on downs, or scores. At this point, the other team then gets possession of the ball.
Kickoff: A kick where the ball is placed on a tee and the player kicks the ball from the tee to the opponent.
Punt: A kick where the player drops the ball to his foot and kicks it to the opponent.
Touchdown: A score (by crossing the ball across the goal line) in the opponent’s end zone (6 POINTS).
Field Goal: A completed and accurate kick into the upright goalposts (3 POINTS)
Extra Point: A kick that is attempted after every touchdown (unless the team chooses to attempt a 2 point conversion.) Also called PAT (point after touchdown)
Touchback:  When the ball is down in the endzone behind the goal line after a kick or intercepted forward pass, after which it is put in play by the team defending the goal on its own 20-yard line.
Red Zone: The area from the 20-yard line to the opponent’s goal line.
Fumble: When a player who has the ball loses possession of it (also known as a turnover).
Interception: When the offense throws a pass but is caught by a defensive player (another term considered a turnover).
Fair Catch: During a kickoff or punt, when the receiving team’s player waves their hands in the air to signal that he is catching the ball and will not advance it.
Sack: When a defensive player tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.
Tackle for Loss (TFL): When a defensive player makes a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in a loss of yards.
Safety: When an offensive player is tackled behind his own goal line (2 POINTS).
Blocking: movements in which one player uses their own body to obstruct the other opponent from advancing the ball.

Offense 101 for Coach's #1 Fan

Offensive Line: The players with possession of the ball who are lined up on the inner line of scrimmage during a play. They serve as a wall to protect the offensive players trying to advance the ball. These players cannot advance the ball.
Center (C): The offensive linemen in the middle of the 5. This player snaps the ball back to the Quarterback.
Quarterback (QB): The player who receives the ball from the center. He either throws the ball to a receiver or tight end, hands the ball off to a running back (or fullback), or keeps the ball himself.
Running Back (RB): A player who runs with the ball (original, right?) Often also referred to as tailbacks or halfbacks.
Wide Receiver (WR): A player who catches the ball.
Fullback (FB): Typically a larger running back.
Tight End (TE): A player who lines up right next to the offensive tackle or next to the quarterback. This player serves as a receiver and a blocker.
Offensive guard (OG): Player on the offensive line who stands right next to the center.
Offensive tackle (OT): Player of the offensive line who stands right next to the guard.
Here's a visual aid to help you identify each position on the field. Now you'll know where to find your favorite players on the field!
 X and O’s 101 Offense

Let’s Dive a little deeper!

Offensive formations--- while there are many formations, we are going to give you an overview of a few of the most common ones you are likely to see.
KEEP IN MIND: Only 7 offensive players can remain on the offensive line when the ball is placed at the line of scrimmage to be snapped. This means that four players are going to start moving around. If you lose track of where the ball is going that's okay, it just means you have a good quarterback! ;)
Shotgun: When the quarterback lines up directly behind the center, typically a few yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Pistol: When the quarterback lines up directly behind the center, in shotgun formation, but the running back lines up directly behind the QB.
Under Center: When the QB lines up directly behind the center.
I formation: When the QB is under center and there are 2 running backs in an “I” behind the QB.
Spread: QB can be under center or in shotgun and there are 2 receivers on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Wildcat: When the running back lines up as the quarterback.


While there are many offensive penalties, listed below are a few of the ones most commonly heard and a chart with additional penalties and the signals used by the officials.
False start: When an offensive player moves or crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.
Holding: Illegally grabbing or holding the defensive players.
Illegal formation: Not having 7 players on the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
Block in the back: Hitting a defensive player from behind while trying to block.
Offensive pass interference: Illegally obstructing or moving a defensive player out of the way while trying to catch a pass.
Illegal hands to the face: Illegally pushing the defensive players’ face/facemask.
Chop block: When an offensive player is engaged with a defensive player and another offensive player hits their legs.
Intentional grounding: When the quarterback deliberately spikes the ball or throws the ball away while still inside the “pocket”.
Illegal forward pass: Throwing the ball forward after they have crossed the line of scrimmage.
Here's a chart you can download courtesy of
ref signals
Defense, you’re up next! We'll be breaking down the other side of the ball next week!

Back to blog