A goal line back in football is a running back that is brought onto the field when close to the opponent’s goal line. This player excels in short-yardage situations and often has the strength to push defenders backwards.
In the game of football the closer you get to your opponent’s endzone the harder it will be to move the ball. This is because the defense has less field to protect.
By the time you get close to the goal line, you will find all eleven defenders will be covering a fairly small portion of the field.
This can make it difficult to get into the endzone. For this reason among others, teams often have a runningback that specializes in these sorts of situations.
When close to the goal line the opponents will often assume that the offense is going to run the football. To stop this the defense will often bring in more defensive linemen, making it even more difficult to get into the endzone.
Taking on these large defenders is no joke which is why a specialized back is needed to punch the ball into the endzone.
Common traits of a goal-line back
One of the most important traits a goal-line back needs to have is strength.
On some rushing plays the ball carrier will be able to get into the endzone without being touched. This is almost never the case with a goal-line back.
These players are going to be hit regardless, the question is can they stay on their feet and continue to move forward.
In order to do this goal line backs are going to need a great deal of strength. When running at the goal line the ball will usually be carried in the middle of the formation.
This means the goal line back needs to take on a defensive lineman. Strong legs are needed to keep the back moving and upright. While strong arms and hands are necessary to make sure the defense does not force a fumble.
Another often overlooked trait that is needed in goal line backs is vision. Now a goal-line back is not going to make the same number of reads as a traditional runningback but this is still a key trait.
Immediately after receiving the ball on the handoff, this back is going to choose which hole to go through.
Oftentimes on these plays both the offensive line and defensive line will simply try and push the other backwards.
There will not always be a predetermined hole that is being opened for the ball carrier.
For this reason goal line backs are going to have be effectively make these decisions each time they get a handoff near the endzone.
Choosing the wrong defender to take on can easily change the play from a touchdown to a tackle for loss.
On top of having strength and vision goal line backs are also going to need size.
There are usually going to be a lot of players around the ball when near the endzone. This often means the goal line back is going to have to use his physicality to get into the endzone.
Strength can be handy but even the strongest of players aren’t often able to knock over layers much heavier than them.
If a goal-line back has size he will be able to use it to more effectively puss the defenders backwards.
A strong goal-line back running into a defender is much more effective if this back is heavier.
You may notice that goal line backs are often much bigger than other runningbacks for this very reason.