When I learned about personnel groups earlier this year, it blew my mind.
All of a sudden I knew who was on the field and how to refer to them! I knew what people were talking about when they talked about personnel! It felt amazing. And that’s the feeling I want all of you to have, one step at a time!
Ok, ready? Let’s dive in!
Remember everyone on offense? The quarterback throws the ball, the offensive line (5 players) protect him, and the skill/position players – tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers – advance the ball forward. There can only be 11 players on the field from each unit (offense, defense, special teams) at a time, so we know that between the quarterback and the offensive line there are 6 players, which leaves for 5 skill position players.
The skill position players are the players referred to in “personnel groups.” You might have heard teams like “21 personnel” or having the “11 personnel group” on the field.
Personnel Groups are identified by the number of running backs and tight ends on the field on a given play – in that order running backs and then tight ends – and wide receivers aren’t counted. Each position can only have a certain number of players on the field at one time – there can only be at most 3 running backs, 3 tight ends, or 5 wide receivers (but not all at the same time, since there are only room for 5 players plus the QB and O-line).
Ok, now we get to do a little personnel group math. But don’t worry, it’s not like algebra. It’s more like first grade math.
A personnel group consists of two numbers.
The first number refers to the number of running backs on the field.
The second number refers to the number of tight ends on the field.
From those two numbers, we know how many wide receivers are on the field.
So let’s say there are two running backs on the field and two tight ends on the field. That would be a 22 personnel group. And since we know that there are two running backs and two tight ends on the field and there need to be five total skill players on the field, that means there is one wide receiver on the field.
Here’s another example: if there are 3 RB’s and 1 TE, that’s a 31 Personnel Group. And since there are only 4 players in the Personnel Group, that means there is 1 WR on the field.
Ready for some quick fire examples? I know you are!
- 2 RB’s + 1 TE = 21 Personnel
- This means: there are 2 WR’s on the play (leftover count from the 5 men on O-line, QB, and 21 Personnel)
- 1 RB + 2 TE’s = 12 Personnel
- This means: there are 2 WR’s on the play (same as above)
- 2 RB’s + 2 TE’s = 22 Personnel
- This means: there is 1 WR on the play
- 3 RB’s + 0 TE’s = 30 Personnel
- This means: there are 2 WR’s on the play
The personnel group on the field usually gives clues as to whether the offense will run or pass. If there are lots of running backs on the field, then it’s probably a running play. If there are a lot of wide receivers on the field, then it’s probably a passing play. But beware! It’s in a team’s best interest to mix things up – to pass on a 22 Personnel or to run on a 10 Personnel – just to confuse the defense. Knowing the personnel groups doesn’t automatically lead to knowing the play, but it will help in determining the team’s game plan.
Another trick to note: the personnel groups are based on which personnel is IN THE HUDDLE – not necessarily how they line up/are utilized in the play (let’s say, if a TE lined up as WR, etc).
How are you feeling? Confident? Mixed up? Questions and concerns? Let me know in the comments because next week, we’re going to revisit this post and break it down a little bit more. We’ll talk about how to identify running backs and tight ends and wide receivers on the field and in the huddle so you know how to calculate the personnel group a little more precisely.
Until then, go practice! Have fun! Enjoy being in the know!