Line Lingo Part 1: Know Your Holes and Gaps

With the off-season doldrums at their peak, it’s a good time to review the vocabulary that’s fundamental to understanding how football plays work.

Coaches need special lingo to save time.   Short forms of terminology not only mean less talking on the coach’s part, but when the lingo is understood by the player, all sorts of symbolic associations are made that can load even more  information into a simple word or phrase.  The most basic example of this in football is how the spaces between offensive players are named.

For all that’s changed in football, line of scrimmage and receiver eligibility rules are pretty constant (and when they are challenged, such as by the A-11 offense, the rules catch-up and supersede any rebellious innovations.)  This means that for decades, the concept of an offensive line has been as much a staple of football as blocking and tackling.  Because it’s been around so long, the terminology for defining the space occupied by the linemen—the “tackle box”—is nearly as old…

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3 thoughts on “Line Lingo Part 1: Know Your Holes and Gaps

  1. Floyd Craig says:

    Some things change very little over time. At least on offence. In the early 50s and wiith the split T, a call for 34 on 2 meant the half back would hit the # 4 hole on the snap count of 2, I think.

  2. Add a formation designation to that phrase (something like “Pro-Right”) and you’ve got the run-game play calls I bet are used by most high schools and colleges in the country. Off the top of my head, I don’t think I’ve seen any playbooks older than the 1930’s (maybe even ’40’s) that used the hole-numbering system. My hunch is that the concept of a numbering system wasn’t as useful then since defenses were fairly static and nearly every run play was a variation of the off-tackle sweep. I think guys like Faurot and Lombardi (big surprise there) were pretty important spreading the idea of attacking all up and down the line-of-scrimmage to create running lanes.

    • Arizona Hokie says:

      Ah Don Faurot, other than reference to Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium at Missouri, his name is not invoked much these days.

      But for me it’s special. During the 1968-69 school year I lived in his basement at 108 Burnam Road for $50 a month (still have a few of the checks my dad wrote to “Uncle Don” (as we called him) with his signature on the back.

      He had wide angle photos of scoring plays from all those Bowls MU played in from the 1930s and 40s on the wall next to the steps leading to my cave. What a great sight to see after a day of classes.BTW he lost all the Bowl games–Mizzou’s first Bowl win was not until 1960.

      I did “host” a beer and pretzels party after the final lab of my Geology class. I was a hero amongst my classmates, but Uncle Don saw us, but said nothing (I cleaned everything up and it was not a wild party).

      Few remember he invented the Split-T formation and wrote a book about it. I bought a copy at used book store in Columbia, but don’t have it anymore.(darn!)

      Uncle Don chose the squads for the Blue Gray game every year so there was always a good Mizzou player or two on the Gray squad. I watched the game each year just to see him interviewed at halftime.

      Sadly both the game and Don are gone both neither forgotten.

      I left Mizzou in June 1969—the times at his place was the most special memories of my time on the Plains.

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