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Football Route Tree

A route tree in football is a common set list of routes for passing plays by the offense that assigns a number value of 1-9 to each route. Route trees are used to refer to specific routes and route combinations in a timely manner, as well as establish a common language regarding route patterns.

Using a route tree effectively will help wide receivers, running backs, or tight ends get away from their defensive backs.

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Routes in the Route Tree

There are nine different routes included in the route tree. Note that the odd-numbered routes (except #9) break away from the ball, while the even-numbered routes break toward the ball.

#0: Hitch

The hitch route is not always shown on route trees because it is very simple; the receiver takes a couple hard steps forward before turning inside to catch the ball.

#1: Flat

Also known as a “quick out” route, the flat is run from the inside of the field toward the sideline. A receiver running a 1 will almost always start closer to the ball in a formation.

#2: Slant

The slant (also known as the “quick in” or “crossing route”) is one of the most common routes in all of football. The receiver of a slant needs to move quickly when the ball is snapped so they may catch the ball before the defense can react.

#3: Comeback

In a comeback route, the receiver cuts back toward the sideline after firing off the line of scrimmage.

PRO TIP: In routes numbered 3-8, the receiver will want to make it seem like he is running a #9 in order to create more separation from the defensive back off the break.

#4: Curl

The curl route is the same as a comeback, except the receiver will cut back toward the quarterback.

#5: Out

An out (or “deep out” route) typically breaks at the first down line, especially during a late down and distance, such as 3rd down.

#6: In

Also referred to as a “dig” or “deep-in,” the #6 route is the same as a #5, except the receiver breaks to the inside. This can be a dangerous route for a receiver if they are not aware of their surroundings, cutting into the middle of a defense can lead to big hits and injuries.

#7: Corner

The corner route, also known as the “flag”, is commonly used in goal-line situations. The corner is also used to stretch defensive zone coverages by attracting the attention of a safety.

#8: Post

The post route breaks toward the goalposts (hence the name “post”) to create separation from the defensive back while still running toward the end zone.

#9: Go

Although there are many names for a #9 route, the “go”, “fade”, and “fly” are just a few, it is the most basic route to understand. The receiver simply runs in a straight line to try and outrun their defender. The go route is high risk, but high reward.

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