What Is A Back Judge In Football?

A back judge in football is an official that stands deep into the defensive backfield during regular play. This official is responsible for calling penalties in his location of the field along with several other duties.

A back judge also stands under the goalposts on field goal attempts and manages the game clock and tv timeouts. A back judge like most officials has a huge number of responsibilities on the field.

Common calls made by a back judge include:

Read on to learn about each different responsibility that falls onto the back judge during a football game.

Every Down Responsibilites

Depending on if the offensive team runs a passing play or rushing play the back judge is going to have different responsibilities. Though, there are a few duties that this official must do each and every play.

Count Defensive Players

On each play, the back judge is responsible for counting the number of defensive players on the field. If this official determines there are more than eleven players a penalty flag will be thrown.

This is an important job as the defense is often rotating players throughout their drive. This rotation of players requires an official to keep an eye on the number of players on the field.

Keeping Track Of The Game Clock

The back judge is also responsible for throwing flags for delay of game. If a team fails to snap the ball before the play clock expires it is the back judge that will throw a delay of game flag.

Passing Down Responsibilities

Now that we know the every-down responsibilities of a back judge let’s get into the specifics. Just like defensive players officials read the offense and determine whether a passing or running play is occurring.

When a pass play occurs the first thing a back judge will do is go to the number two or three receiver. The official will choose the defender based on the formation the team started in.

Once the quarterback passes the ball the back judge will go to where the pass is thrown. At this point, they will determine if a legal catch was made.

During this time the ball judge will be watching these receivers and defensive backs for infractions. Specifically, a back judge will keep his eyes out for illegal contact, defensive holding and offensive or defensive pass interference.

Running Down Responsibilities

To start a run play the back judge will line up in the middle of the field and read the center as well as the left and right guard. This will allow the official to determine if the play is a run and which way it may be heading.

Once they determine it is a running play the BJ will look for defensive holds committed by the defensive line or linebackers.

As the play progresses this official will now start looking for offensive holds committed against defensive backs looking to bring down the ball carrier.

Special Teams Duties

On top of their regular duties back judges are also quite involved in special teams.

Calling Feild Goals

One interesting job of the BJ on special teams is to stand underneath the uprights on field goal attempts. It is up to the ball judge and the field judge to signal whether or not a field goal went through the uprights.


On punts, the BJ will line up seven to ten yards behind the punt return man. The BJ will be responsible for calling fair catches as well as fair catch infractions.


On kickoff, the back judge has a few responsibilities. First off they are responsible for lining up the kicking team. This means he will set the line in which the kickoff team starts from.

He will also make sure there is an even number of players on either side of the kicker. The official is also there to ensure that no numbers of the kickoff team are offside prior to the kick.


The positioning of a back judge can be assumed through it’s name. These officials will start each play from deep in the opponent’s backfield. Back judges line up in between the hash marks and move throughout the play in order to call the game effectively.

If you enjoyed learning more about officials you may want to check out our article that breaks down the chain gang.

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