What is the Center Position in Football?
The center in football is an offensive lineman who snaps or hikes the ball to the quarterback to start every down. The center lines up in the middle of the offensive line, on either side of the offensive guards and in front of the quarterback. The center is arguably one of the most important positions on the field, alongside the quarterback.
The center plays in the middle of the offensive line and is tasked with making and calling out reads to the quarterback, usually relating to linebackers and the defensive line. If the ball is being snapped to a holder for a field goal or a punter for a punt, the player snapping the ball is called the 'long snapper.' Centers and long snappers must be very accurate when snapping the ball or risk a fumble on a bad snap. After the snap, the play begins and the center must block with the offensive line to protect the quarterback and running backs.
The Role of the Center In Football
Not only does the center block like the rest of the offensive line, the center has two primary tasks: snap the ball to the quarterback and call out possible defensive alignments. Before they snap the ball, the center, alongside the quarterback, examines the defense and calls out anything that appears to be a threat to the offense, such as possible blitzers or bluffing defenders. The center must also be very accurate with the snap, as when the ball moves, so do the defenders and the rest of the offense, so the snap must be quick and clean.
The quarterback can line up directly behind the center and simply take the ball from the center, or a few yards behind him wherein the center must throw the ball backward to the quarterback, quickly and accurately.
He has four main jobs in football:
- Hike or snap the ball to the quarterback
- Countering the opposing team's defensive line players, specifically the nose tackle
- Protecting the quarterback from being sacked
- Creating gaps for the ball carrier
The center always touches the ball first before any player at the start of a scrimmage down. A scrimmage down is just a fancy word for a play at the line of scrimmage. Once other offensive players are in position, the center will snap, or hike, the ball to the quarterback through a backward pass between his legs.
Once the quarterback catches the pass, he has a few options of what he can do with it depending on the play design. He can pass the ball to a receiver, hand it off to a running back, or run with the ball himself for a quarterback-sneak.
The Nose Tackle (NT)
The nose tackle positions himself opposite the center across the line of scrimmage. When the scrimmage down begins, they will run into each other in an attempt to bring the other player out of position.
Protecting The Quarterback
If defensive players on the opposing team are able to break through the offensive line, they have a direct path to the quarterback. If a defensive player tackles the quarterback from behind the line of scrimmage, it is called a sack. The center, along with other players in the offensive line can form a circle around the quarterback called the pocket to block any attempts at a sack. This gives the quarterback enough time to scan down the field for an open receiver to throw a pass to.
The center will try and push players in the defensive line out of position in an attempt to create openings called gaps on the field for players like the running back to run through. Creating gaps can be the difference between a loss of yards and a huge gain of yards.