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The Development of the H-Back Position

The H Back and the uses of the position have become as versatile as a swiss army knife. The first use of the position started in Washington with Joe Gibbs in the 1980’s. Although its use did not completely go away in the 90’s with the emergence of Spread Offenses and the Run and Shoot, it did fade into the background. However, as usually happens with our sport…the H Back has made a comeback, and its usefulness may just recently have been discovered.

The H-Back has always been a Hybrid (Fullback/Tight End) position. He is an off the ball, “move” guy who can be both a Point of Attack Blocker as well as a receiving threat. The beginnings of the position can be traced, as stated before back to the Redskins teams of the 80’s and 90’s, to counter the play of Lawrence Taylor. The H-back in Washington was asked to block, pass protect, and run receiving routes from multiple sets. He was a motion guy put into use to assist with the assignment of neutralizing L.T.

As the Spread Offenses of the 90’s and 2000’s transitioned from “throw it every down” type of attacks to the more spread run game and RPO’s of today…the H-Back returned and is now a major part of the offenses attack on every level.

Perhaps the best asset of the position is that you as a play caller can morph the position into the type of player you have to insert there. However, do not confuse the term H-Back with Halfback. The H is not a primary ball carrier, although at times he can surprise the defense with a carry here or there.

In the past personally I have coached at some smaller schools where finding a prototypical, in the line Tight End was very difficult. Someone who was 6’4-6’6 265-270 pounds and can run was not coming to an NAIA school, etc. That situation forced me into developing my offensive plan around a Hybrid type of player. I have used guys that were 6’2 240 pounds lined up as wings, offset strong or weak positions in the gun backfield etc. to enhance our Zone Reads, RPO’s and Play Actions and discovered how versatile they can be on a firsthand basis.

From one alignment, three different runs, without really changing the scheme up front. The Offensive Line Identify and work their combinations back when the H-Back inserts himself on the front side of the play. Transition to Zone Read:

And now to RPO:

Finally, to Play Action Pass:

This is just one formation, one alignment, one set of plays that can show the versatility of the H Back position. Would love to discuss it further in the “Inside the Box” Forums. Will share play diagrams, ideas, film etc. Thank you for reading and please help us build the community here at

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