Getting on the field as a freshman is not impossible, but it’s definitely not a sure thing.
You have to not only earn your coach’s trust but have the physical and mental makeup to compete at the highest level and on the biggest stage with millions of people watching (you also need some God-given talent and your team also needs to have a need at that position).
This is a catch-22 for college football coaches in the portal era. If they stash their highest-rated prospects on the bench for too long, those players could often transfer. That means players might sometimes see the field a little prematurely.
A few weeks away from the start of spring practice, I thought it would be a perfect time to take a look at each position and rank them in order from easiest to hardest with the following prompt: Which position is easiest for a true freshman to play?
We're going to start with the offense and run through the easiest to the hardest, and then we'll switch to the defensive side of the football and do the same thing.
1. Running back
It’s a no-brainer that running back is the position at which a freshman will have the easiest time seeing the field.
Mentally, it’s not a very complicated position besides the pass protection aspect. And if you ever have a young, talented running back who isn’t playing as much as you hoped, that would be why: they don’t understand protections or defensive alignments yet.
At the end of the day, you either get it or you don’t. The best running backs “get it,” from the jump.
Physically, this is a very demanding position as defenders are trying to punish you on every touch. That’s one of the reasons why teams rotate running backs so much, which of course breeds opportunity. Elite freshman running backs make a huge impact every year, such as Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson in 2021
2. Wide Receiver
Physically, wide receiver is a less demanding position than it used to be with the emphasis on targeting and defenders leading with their head.
Mentally, it is a bigger challenge because you and the quarterback have to be on the same page with sight adjustments vs. the blitz and disguises in coverages post-snap that change your route. Receivers have to quickly adjust to defenders taking away where they want to go.
It’s definitely not an “easy” position but if you can catch the ball, protect the ball and get open, there will be an opportunity to make an impact early.
3. Tight end
Tight ends are becoming a bigger part of the modern game and this a position that is heavily-substituted based on offensive personnel groups. Tight ends have to be both physically capable (to catch and block) but mentally able to learn all phases of the playbook. There are short-yardage and goal line situations where teams are in 12 or 13 personnel (two or three tight ends).
There are tight ends who aren’t great blockers but are elite receivers that become mismatches in the pass game like Florida’s Kyle Pitts. Then there are tight ends who are really extra offensive linemen like Alabama’s Kendall Randolph; those guys are strictly there to mash in the run game.
In all, tight ends have to understand how to combination block and pull in the run game. They need to know pass-protection rules in the 6- and 7-man protections. They have to understand how to motion, trade and shift and they have to understand coverages for their assignments for the passing game. It’s a lot of dirty work but if you're good at all phases you can add a lot of value to your team — and you’ll probably be paid handsomely come NFL time.
4. Offensive line
Offensive line is very difficult to play as a freshman because it's the hardest position on the field both physically. Mentally, it’s up there as well.
On the physical side, you need to be physical and strong enough to move people in the run game and also athletic enough to be able to mirror and protect the quarterback in pass protection. Being a technician is an art form and it takes tons of reps to really dial in to what you’re doing to have success. Bad technique can put you in a tough position. Having the proper footwork, landmarks, and hand placement is critical to your success.
Mentally, offensive linemen have to prepare for every possible front, blitz, stunt, game and creeper every week as there is always something thrown at you that is new or you have not seen. Freshmen don’t have the time on task or experience to learn from their mistakes so it can sometimes make for a steep learning curve (and you can bet that the defensive staff will try to expose freshmen with confusion and mismatches).
Linemen also have to work as a unit and all be on the same page in their blocking schemes to make sure they have a hat on a hat in their blocking schemes. Linemen also do not get substituted out of the game like they do on defense so you generally have to have a game plan for numerous players that come in fresh when you're exhausted.
All linemen develop in different phases but the ones that see the field early are usually special talents who also fill a position of need in most circumstances. Hats off to Texas A&M, who started two freshmen in Bryce Foster and Reuben Fatheree. Those guys did a great job in the toughest league in the country.
It goes without saying that quarterback is the toughest position on the field mentally. Big-picture, you also have to be able to block out the outside noise as you are blamed for almost anything bad that is happening to your offense. Inside the lines, quarterbacks have to know the playbook inside and out and have to be on the same page with not only their offensive coordinator but also the entire offense to make the offense effective. Defenses are trying to create confusion, especially against a young quarterback, and you have to be prepared for a post-snap look that will be awfully different than the pre-snap look.
Quarterbacks need to be leaders and alphas on the team and that’s easier said than done because you have to prove to everyone that you're that guy. It’s harder to do that when you have been on campus for less than a year and have not played.
Most importantly, you have to earn the trust of your head coach because your effectiveness not only affects the outcome of the season but in most cases affects your coach's job.
There are a lot of success stories of freshmen who have excelled early but I think most coaches would prefer to have their guys marinate for at least a year to learn how to maximize their performance.
Now let's take a look at the defensive side of the ball. Just like with the offense, we'll start with the easiest positions and then shift to the toughest.
1. Interior defensive tackle
Defensive tackle is not a complicated position mentally. You're eating up space. Obviously there are stunts and games where you move and exchange gaps but you're generally playing THE MOST physically demanding position in a phone booth in the A/B gaps. Typically vs. the run you are in charge of holding the point and squeezing the gap that you're assigned to.
When you're stunting you're generally moving at a 45-degree angle from one gap to the next. You have to be able to recognize blocking schemes so you don’t lose your gap and understand what the offensive line is trying to do to you. It’s not rocket science. Defenses are very personnel- and package-driven now so if you're an elite run stuffer like Georgia’s Jordan Davis then they will try to get you out in passing situations or just fake an injury to get the right personnel on the field to match up. The defensive tackle is almost always the guys faking the injury if you haven't noticed …
Cornerback is the least physically demanding position on the defense but mentally, it's difficult. You better know your coverage rules — when to carry and who takes who vertically. Certain schemes are more complicated than others as there are not any teams that play man to man defense like they used to. The other taxing aspect of cornerback is that you need to have a short memory. There are not a lot of places to hide when you're on an island. How many times have you seen perfect coverage on a guy and they still just make a play on you? It’s a tough way to make a living but I’ve never met a corner that lacks confidence.
3. Outside linebacker/nickel
This is where we start to have some debate. In a four-man front or the 3-man front, the outside linebacker that plays in space has to mix his responsibilities with the run and pass.Physically, they have to be able to take on tight ends and offensive tackles that are trying to run the ball down their throats so have to be able to hold up vs the run as well. And of course in this day in age, you have got to be able to play in space, too.
Defenses can mix and match personnel and play a nickel here just as easily as a linebacker or even another corner if you're seeing mostly four and five wide receivers. Outside 'backers and nickels have lots of things they can do depending on their job: they can do anything from contain blitz to matching the No. 3 receiving threat to the flats, to peeling with the running back if they flare. They are also gap changer vs. the backside of runs. Mentally it's a challenging position because you need to understand the run fits and also when to carry someone in your zone and when to leave your man for someone else. Often these are gray areas. The RPO game also preys on outside 'backers and the nickel because they are always in conflict in run and pass game.
I put the edge player or defensive end here because they have to mentally think about more than the big boys inside but have to be able to hold up physically vs. offensive tackles and tight ends at the point of attack. Like defensive tackle, this is a heavily rotated position.
There is so much to go through at this position. You cannot get one thing wrong because if you lose the edge, you're probably going to lose the play.
Our defensive line coach at SMU made an "alignment, job, eyes" board for all of our positions on the defensive line and had their rules for every defensive call we ran.This was very helpful because there is no gray area. Again, you can't get anything wrong. There's a lot to go through. When it's 100 degrees outside, you're exhausted and every play matters, you have to have attention to detail and trust your coaching and training. You'd also like this position to be somebody to break a game wide open or make a huge play when you need it the most — maybe a strip-sack on third down in the fourth quarter. It's not just about surviving. The great ones also thrive.
Safeties mentally and physically have to be on point because you have to have the ability to be alpha communicators with motion checks and adjustments and also have to be able to close space and be physical to make some of the hardest open field tackles with no margin for error.
Safeties are always the adjuster to what's going on and usually the first to communicate on defense as they generally go from the top down. Being an alpha as a freshman and a vocal communicator is not as easy as it seems. They have to understand the kinds of route combinations that their opponents run the most and have to be alert and able to carry four verticals out of any formation as well as being able to handle the middle of the field (pop passes, RPO game). Safeties need to be masters at disguising their alignments and coverages they are generally the guys that the quarterbacks are reading on whether to hand it off or throw it.
This is all a tough task for a freshman. The ones who do it from the jump and thrive, like Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton in 2019, have "special" written all over them.
6. Box linebacker
I debated between this and safety on which is the hardest for a first-year player. I chose linebacker because not only do they have to be physical and take on offensive linemen at the point but also must be able to communicate the strength of the call to the defensive line and make the calls and adjustments on every snap. There are always two 'backers in the box and they have to be able to adjust on the move and sometimes switch assignments at the last second depending on what the offense does to confuse.
Linebackers have to have a great understanding of fitting in the right gaps off of the defensive lineman and also play the RPO off the run game. They have to understand the offense's hit charts and tendencies and any tells that an offensive lineman or tight end gives away by something in their alignment or stance. Like safety, you have to be an alpha communicator and be able to adjust on the fly as you will almost always see something you have not prepared for during the week.
On top of all that, they have to understand the kinds of route combinations they will see in zone coverage and at any given moment can be man to man vs. an elite running back with speed or a 6-foot-7 tight end with a large catch radius.
Blake Brockermeyer is a College Football Analyst for 247Sports. He was an All-American OT at the University of Texas and was a first-round NFL Draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 1995. He was a defensive quality control analyst for SMU from 2018-2020. He has sons on the Texas (Luke) and Alabama (Tommy, James) football teams.
The easiest position on offense may be the receiver. He has limited responsibility and most plays may have nothing to do with him at all.
Cornerback is the least physically demanding position on the defense but mentally, it's difficult. You better know your coverage rules — when to carry and who takes who vertically. Certain schemes are more complicated than others as there are not any teams that play man to man defense like they used to.Is safety a hard position in football? ›
Safety is one of the more challenging positions to play in football. The position can in many ways be considered a hybrid between a linebacker and a cornerback. As such, it requires a varied skillset and body type unlike that of many other positions.What position is fastest player on a football team? ›
Returners are responsible for catching kicked balls (either on kickoffs or punts) and running the ball back. These are usually among the fastest players on a team and typically play either wide receiver or cornerback, as well.Which football positions get hurt the least? ›
If you want to play football, but not get injured, then you might want to earn a position on the special team squad. Only about 4 % of long snappers suffer injuries, and there are even fewer injuries to kickers and punters.What is the smartest position in football? ›
offensive linemen are among the smartest players on the field. that happened, it got pretty complicated for offensive linemen." everybody across the offense." own calls to the tackles, one of whom then informs the tight end.What are the safest positions in football? ›
The summary takeaway is that if you want to minimize the chances for a concussion, you should play on the defensive side of the ball. If you play offense look for the defense equivalent. If you're a wide receiver, play safety or cornerback. If you're a center, play nose tackle.What football position is most important? ›
The quarterback is not only the team's biggest decision maker, but his ability to make timely plays and efficiently manage the game routinely determines which team lands in the winner's circle at the end of the season.Is first base the easiest position? ›
First base is by far the easiest position on a baseball diamond. It is not a coincidence that players that have the least amount of range or are a step slower than the average athlete find themselves playing the first base position. A first baseman simply doesn't move around that much.What position requires the most strength in football? ›
If you watch the game closely, you will notice lineman display the most strength; defensive backs & wide-receivers posses the most speed; linebackers and running backs exhibit immense power; quarterbacks, kickers, and punters have a very unique skill; and each position has an enduring stamina, along with a level of ...
But cornerbacks have it the hardest. The pre-reqs on being a cornerback involves being agile, fast, and quick. The player could be more athletic than the receiver, but still is at a disadvantage because he has no idea what route the player is going to run.
Linebackers are often players that are both big in stature but also athletic enough to cover the pass. They need to be big because of the ability to take on offensive lineman to stop the run. They will be confronted with an offensive lineman that they need to disengage to tackle every run play.Should strikers be fast? ›
Being fast gives the striker an advantage over slower players because they can get to the ball before the other players around them. A striker in possession of the ball is more likely to score than a striker without the ball.Does a striker need to be fast? ›
Speed. Speed is one of the best weapons of a striker, making it a key trait.Who is the fastest defender in the world? ›
- Alphonso Davies (94) Bayern Munich.
- Jeremiah St Juste (93) Sporting CP.
- Jeremie Frimpong (93) Bayer Leverkusen.
- Theo Hernandez (93) AC Milan.
- Achraf Hakimi (92) Paris SG.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found running backs are at risk more than anyone else on the field, 16 percent of injuries occurred, higher than any other position.What football position is the lightest? ›
Kickers seem to be the lightest players in the league on average and also is the position of the lightest player out of the samples. Offensive Linemen seem to be the heaviest on average but the heaviest player from the samples was a Defensive Tackle.What football position does the least running? ›
Striker. Physical aspect: Striker is one of the positions on the field that runs the least.What position is No 5 in football? ›
Centre-backs typically wear the No. 5 shirt, with some notable examples including ex-Barcelona captain and one-club man Carles Puyol, Fabio Cannavaro and Franz Beckenbauer. Zinedine Zidane, a playmaking central midfielder, famously wore the No. 5 shirt at Real Madrid.What is the best move in football? ›
- The Maradona Turn. The Maradona Turn is something every player practices and its beauty comes from the simplicity of it. ...
- The Cruyff Turn. ...
- The Scissor Kick. ...
- The Rabona. ...
- The Elastico. ...
- The Pullback V. ...
- The Rainbow or the Okocha Flick. ...
- The Knuckleball Free Kick.
Lionel Messi is one of the best dribblers of all time. The unique thing about Messi as opposed to the other players on this list is that he is not one to do flashy tricks.What are the top 10 hardest positions in football? ›
Other Hardest Positions in Football
- Defensive Tackle.
- Wide Receiver.
- Kick/punt Returner.
- Long Snapper.
- Ronaldinho. Ronaldinho is in a league of his own when it comes to ranking the greatest football players of all time.
- Zinedine Zidane. ...
- Pele. ...
- Lionel Messi. ...
- Diego Maradona. ...
- Cristiano Ronaldo. ...
- Andres Iniesta. ...
- Gianfranco Zola. ...
It's certainly easier to say something is overrated when it's given so much spotlight. The fullback position or guard is NEVER talked about, so it is usually underrated because it's a position that sees a lot of action during the game.What position gets the most tackles? ›
Middle Linebacker (Defense)
The main job of middle linebackers is to protect the center of the field from passes, corner quarterbacks, and handle back runs. This player usually ends the season with more tackles than other NFL positions.
The right tackle (RT) is usually one of the team's best run blockers. Most running plays are towards the strong side (the side with the tight end) of the offensive line. Consequently, the right tackle will face the defending team's best run stoppers.Is running back a good position? ›
It doesn't matter what offense your team runs- the running back is an extremely important position. Often one of the team's most athletic players, the running backs job has remained the same as the game of football has continued to evolve.Is first base kissing? ›
First base = kissing, including open-mouth (or French) kissing. Second base = petting above the waist, including touching, feeling, and fondling the chest, breasts, and nipples.What kind of player plays first base? ›
Also called first sacker or cornerman, the first baseman is ideally a tall player who throws left-handed and possesses good flexibility and quick reflexes. Flexibility is needed because the first baseman receives throws from the other infielders, the catcher and the pitcher after they have fielded ground balls.Who is the best first base? ›
- Jared Walsh – Los Angeles Angels (Age: 28) ...
- Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants (Age: 33) ...
- Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox (Age: 35) ...
- Yuli Gurriel – Houston Astros (Age: 37) ...
- Joey Votto – Cincinatti Reds (Age: 38) ...
- Pete Alonso – New York Mets (Age: 27) ...
- Paul Goldschmidt – St. ...
- Matt Olson – Atlanta Braves (Age: 28)
|Degree of Difficulty: Sport Rankings|
According to Sports Virsa, the top 10 hardest sports in the world to play in 2022 are as follows: Boxing (hardest), American football, mixed martial arts, ice hockey, gymnastics, basketball, soccer, wrestling, rugby, and water polo.What sport take the most skill? ›
Top Ranked Skill Sports.
|2||Swimming (200m Free)||86.9|
1. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams.Has an NFL game ever won a safety? ›
There have been only three walkoff safety wins in overtime in NFL history: Minnesota Vikings 23, Los Angeles Rams 21 (November 5, 1989) Chicago Bears 19, Tennessee Titans 17 (November 14, 2004) Miami Dolphins 22, Cincinnati Bengals 20 (November 1, 2013)Who is the hardest hitting strong safety? ›
Lott is considered to be one of the hardest hitters to ever play the position. He's a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, member of the NFL 75 Anniversary All-Time Team and finsihed his Hall of Fame career with 63 interceptions.
The 3-4 defense consists of three defensive linemen (two defensive ends, one nose tackle) and four linebackers (two outside linebackers, two inside linebackers).Can linebackers be small? ›
The smaller or lighter a linebacker is, without fail, the less they are valued in the NFL Draft. This is most noticeably different in weight, where players ten pounds or more below the average fall nearly a round in ADP – versus those weighing ten pounds or more than the average, whose ADP jumps more than a round.Do linebackers need to be fast? ›
Linebackers are expected to rush the quarterback, offer pass coverage, and stop runs. Linebackers must be fast enough to catch receivers yet strong enough to tackle a running back at full speed. A lean, powerful physicality is the core upon which a great linebacker's game is built.What is the safest position in football? ›
The summary takeaway is that if you want to minimize the chances for a concussion, you should play on the defensive side of the ball. If you play offense look for the defense equivalent. If you're a wide receiver, play safety or cornerback. If you're a center, play nose tackle.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found running backs are at risk more than anyone else on the field, 16 percent of injuries occurred, higher than any other position.Which football position gets paid the most? ›
Unsurprisingly, quarterbacks are the highest paid position on most any NFL team, and it's not particularly close no matter how you measure it. Looking at the average salary for every player in the 2022 season, quarterbacks are due to make an average of over $7 million.Can you be 0 in NFL? ›
Numbers 0 and 00 are no longer used, though they were issued in the NFL before the number standardization in 1973. Quarterback Johnny Clement, running back Johnny Olszewski, and safety Obert Logan all wore a single-0 jersey in the NFL.Can you be 0 football? ›
The number zero has been worn in the National Football League. George Plimpton wore number zero in the preseason when he played quarterback for the Detroit Lions.How do I get better at D line? ›
- Be a hand fighter.
- Have active feet.
- Leverage all blocks.
- Beat and defeat blocker first.
- Keep separated from the blocker.
- Create a new line of scrimmage.
- Maintain pursuit speed.
- Play to the whistle and get in on every tackle.
Keeping the all-important quarterback protected is obviously a top priority. Thus, the second-most crucial offensive position is left tackle, due to the presence of dangerous pass rushers on the QB's blind side.Who is No 1 position in football? ›
1. Quarterback (Offense) The QB is required to handle the ball and make decisions every single play. On passing plays, the quarterback has to deliver the ball perfectly to his receiver.Which NFL position has the shortest career? ›
Among all positions, quarterbacks have by far the shortest careers, on average, as they play in just 30 regular season games, which is roughly 30 fewer games than the average defensive tackle, for example.