The Difference Between Halfbacks and Fullbacks

Discover each position’s roles and responsibilities with these Pro Tips from the backfield.

Running backs can play a vital role on a football team’s offense. On any given play, their job can be to run, catch or block to help advance their team downfield. But not every back is the same.

There are different types of running backs that take on varying roles within an offense. For example, a backfield might showcase a designated halfback alongside a fullback. But what classifies each position? Discover the differences between these two key titles with these football Pro Tips. Learn more as Xenith’s Marketing Operations Manager Matt Rea outlines the responsibilities associated with each back.

WHAT IS A HALFBACK?

When most think of the running back position in football, they’re more than likely picturing a halfback. Also known as a tailback, this position serves as the principal ball carrier on offense. Because of this, halfbacks should have certain athletic skills at their disposal.

“They have to have really great vision. They have to be able to be quick and hit the hole fast,” Rea says.

While halfbacks are typically fast and elusive, Rea also notes some can be as effective after contact. “Some are power runners and really get the job done by breaking tackles,” he says.

WHAT IS A FULLBACK?

Despite a halfback’s ability to dodge defenders, they still need blockers to help clear a path. This is where a fullback comes in. One of the biggest differences between halfbacks and fullbacks is the task of blocking on a run. While running backs often receive the handoff, a fullback has other duties during the play.

“Their responsibilities usually lean more heavily into blocking and receiving,” Rea says. This added blocker can help halfbacks find open lanes and gain more yardage downfield.

Because of the extra emphasis on blocking, fullbacks are sometimes larger and stronger than their backfield counterparts. This additional strength can help in holding off defenses on running plays and even prove beneficial in short-yardage situations.

BRANCHING OUT FROM THE BACKFIELD

As offenses have evolved, so have the roles of both fullbacks and halfbacks. While their main responsibilities lie in the running game, both positions can be vital in a team’s passing attack.

A lot of tailbacks nowadays are becoming dual threats where they can be used as a passing option out of the backfield,” Rea says.

On the other hand, fullbacks can also be useful on pass plays, showcasing their versatility in different formations. Rea notes fullbacks can be seen split out wide or in the flats as potential receivers. This added set of hands downfield can give quarterbacks more options for a potential first down or score.

Fullbacks and halfbacks serve different purposes on the gridiron. Although their roles may vary, both can be positive influences on an offense’s on-field success. With these backfield Pro Tips, you can better understand each position before the next drive.

Thinking of lining up in the backfield this season? Discover how to boost your performance on each snap with these running back tips from professional football player Stevan Ridley.