What Is 12 Personnel in Football? The Ultimate Guide

A high school football wide receiver waits for the ball to be snapped.

Football is a complex game that can confuse dedicated and new fans alike. One aspect of football that can cause confusion is personnel groupings. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to examine 12 personnel.

So, what is 12 personnel in football?

In football, 12 personnel refers to an offensive formation with 1 running back and 2 tight ends. The formation allows for both running and passing plays and provides extra blocking and receiving options. The first number in 12 personnel represents running backs, and the second tight ends.

Now that you know how personnel groupings receive their names, we’re going to go into more detail on the most popular formations. This will include the benefits of each formation, the downsides, and much more. So, make sure to keep reading!

What Is 12 Personnel in Football?

In football, 12 personnel refers to an offensive formation featuring one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers. The personnel package is designed to create flexibility for the offense, with the ability to balance both the running and passing game.

The presence of two tight ends in this formation often forces defenses to match up with larger linebackers, making it a good strategy for the offense.

In today’s game, various personnel groupings are used in football to create mismatches and exploit weaknesses in the opposing team’s defense. The offensive formations are often denoted by a two-digit number, with the first digit representing the number of running backs and the second digit representing the number of tight ends on the field.

Twelve personnel is considered a balanced formation due to its versatility, wherein offenses can effectively run or throw the ball. This is because having two tight ends on the field adds an extra layer of unpredictability.

These tight ends can act as blockers, improving the team’s run game. Alternatively, they can act as pass catchers, providing more options for the quarterback in the passing game.

Why Is it Called 12 Personnel?

Twelve personnel is a term commonly used in football to describe a specific offensive formation. The name is derived from the composition of players on the field in this particular setup.

The first digit “1” signifies the presence of a single running back, while the second digit “2” denotes that there are two tight ends on the field during the play.

This personnel package is popular due to its versatility. The presence of two tight ends allows teams to effectively run the ball by creating additional blocking opportunities. At the same time, they can also contribute to the passing game as capable receivers.

This flexibility makes the 12 personnel quite popular among coaches and teams in various situations throughout the game.

The other players on the field during 12 personnel consist of two wide receivers, which are strategically placed to spread the defense and create more room for the running back to run if needed. 

Additionally, the quarterback is responsible for leading the offense and making key decisions on whether to run or pass the ball based on the defense they are facing.

How Do Personnel Numbers Work in Football?

Idaho's offensive line holds off the defensive line.

Personnel numbers in football represent the offensive groupings based on the number of running backs and tight ends on the field for each play. By understanding how these numbers work, coaches can better create offensive plays and devise plans for their teams.

In this section, we’ll discuss the main personnel groupings in football and their corresponding number codes.

12 Personnel

The 12 personnel package involves one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers on the field at once. This formation can be effective in various situations due to its balanced distribution of players and the versatility it provides. With two tight ends, the team is equipped to run the football effectively, while also maintaining a passing threat with the two wide receivers.

10 Personnel

In the case of 10 personnel, the team has one running back and zero tight ends on the field. This formation leaves room for four wide receivers, which provides a strong passing game option. Coaches may opt for this personnel grouping when they want to maximize passing opportunities and spread out the defense.

11 Personnel

The 11 personnel formation features one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers. This versatile and relatively balanced setup offers both running and passing threats, making it a popular choice among football teams. This has become the most commonly used personnel grouping in modern football due to its adaptability to various offensive schemes.

21 Personnel

Lastly, for the 21 personnel package, there are two running backs, one tight end, and two wide receivers on the field. This formation is often used for power running plays, as the dual running backs can help create confusion for the defense, while the tight end provides additional blocking support.

Each of these personnel formations serves a unique purpose and can be tailored to specific game scenarios. By having a firm grasp on these groupings, coaches, and teams can strategize more effectively, leading to better offensive play and an improved football experience on the field.

What Does 12 Personnel Look Like?

In a typical 12 personnel formation, the tight ends are the key players and are strategically positioned to create mismatches against the defense. Tight ends are essential components of the 12 personnel set up. 

They are required to perform both as pass catchers and as blockers, making them extremely versatile and valuable to the offensive scheme.

One potential way to align the 12 personnel is to place the two tight ends on the line of scrimmage flanking the offensive tackles and use one tight end primarily as a blocker while the other serves as an H-back.

This enables offenses to run power football plays and to use the second tight end to motion or shift across the formation, adding unpredictability and opening up various passing options.

Another common approach in 12 personnel is to place one tight end on the line of scrimmage and the other in a slot receiver position. This creates more space for both tight ends to exploit the middle of the field and opens up passing lanes for the quarterback to target.

Furthermore, the two receivers spread out wide can stretch the defense horizontally, creating more opportunities for the tight ends and running back.

Defenses must adapt their strategy when facing 12 personnel offenses by often matching the bigger offensive personnel with larger linebackers or extra defensive backs. This can lead to mismatches, which offenses can take advantage of, especially when targeting tight ends in the passing game.

How Many Different Plays Can You Call in 12 Personnel?

One of the main advantages of the 12 personnel is their ability to create mismatches for the defense. With two tight ends on the field, it becomes difficult for the defense to predict whether the offense is planning a running or passing play. 

This unpredictability can lead to more success for the offense, as the defense can be caught off-guard by unexpected play calls. Running plays are a popular choice when using the 12 personnel formation, as the two tight ends can be utilized as blockers to open lanes for the running back.

The presence of two wide receivers also ensures that the field’s perimeter remains a threat, keeping defenders on their toes. Examples of running plays that can be called in this formation include power-rushing plays, draws, and counters.

Passing plays are also a common choice when using this formation. The presence of two tight ends on the field creates mismatches in the passing game, as they can be matched up against slower defenders such as linebackers.

Additionally, the two wide receivers can stretch the field vertically, creating opportunities for big plays through the air. Some popular passing plays in the 12 personnel formation include hot routes and play action passes.

Benefits of 12 Personnel

A Navy college football player rushes through a hole.

The 12 personnel formation offers several benefits to the offense, such as increased flexibility and improved run-game efficiency.

One of the key advantages of using 12 personnel is its ability to create mismatches against the opposing defense. With two tight ends on the field, the offense has the option to utilize both the run and pass games effectively.

Another benefit of 12 personnel is the improved run blocking provided by having two tight ends. In most cases, these players will line up at the end of the formation, providing additional support for the running back as they attempt to gain yards on the ground.

This can be particularly effective against defenses that are vulnerable to the run or struggle to defend against multiple tight end sets.

Additionally, the presence of two tight ends in 12 personnel can open up passing lanes for the quarterback. Play-action passes, counter runs, and draw plays are common misdirection techniques used by offensive coordinators to keep defensive players guessing.

By successfully executing these plays, the offense can create more opportunities for big plays and sustain longer drives.

Downsides of 12 Personnel

One downside of 12 personnel is its predictability. While the versatility of two tight ends can create mismatches and confuse defenses, some teams might struggle to disguise their intentions when using this offensive scheme. 

When an offense is predictable, defenses can adjust their strategies accordingly and have a higher chance of stopping the play.

Another disadvantage of 12 personnel is the limitation of explosive plays. With only two wide receivers on the field, offenses miss out on the possibility of having a third wide receiver offering a deep threat. 

This can make it harder for playmakers to stretch the field vertically, and defenses can potentially focus on stopping the run game more effectively.

Additionally, the heavy reliance on tight ends can be problematic when one or both are not highly skilled in both blocking and receiving. The success of the 12 personnel formation is largely dependent on the tight ends on the team.

Penalties can also plague 12 personnel formations. Just like any other formation, teams using 12 personnel are susceptible to penalties such as illegal shifts that can negate a successful play and push the offense back, making it harder to maintain a drive.

Lastly, the 12 personnel formation might have a harder time adjusting to certain defensive schemes or personnel. If a defense has a group of agile and versatile defenders such as hybrid safeties and linebackers, they might be able to effectively cover tight ends in the passing game and still remain strong against the run.

How to Play Against 12 Personnel

One essential aspect of defending against 12 personnel is identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the offense. Players and coaching staff should study film and scout for tendencies in their opponent’s play-calling. Familiarity with individual player attributes, such as the abilities of the tight ends, helps dictate the defensive game plan.

Next, a defensive team must maintain gap integrity and prioritize controlling the line of scrimmage. Utilizing a pass rush to create pressure on the quarterback can disrupt the passing game and force the offensive line to make mistakes.

An effective pass rush strategy involves defensive linemen and linebackers working in tandem to close down the pocket, preventing the quarterback from having enough time to execute a successful pass play.

Defensive backs should also be prepared for various passing routes and cover talent-heavy tight ends. Assigning a safety or linebacker with exceptional coverage ability to cover the tight end is crucial. The defensive players should stay focused on disguising their coverage schemes or changing formations during the play.

Moreover, keeping an eye on the quarterback’s movements within the pocket can provide valuable insight into the play’s direction. While observing the quarterback, defensive players should maintain their discipline in coverage assignments and fill gaps in the run game, establishing a well-balanced defensive presence.

Which Formations Are the Most Common in Football?

One of the most popular groupings is 12 personnel. This personnel group provides flexibility in both the run and passing games, forcing defenses to match the bigger offensive personnel with larger linebackers.

Another popular formation in football is the 11 personnel. This group features 1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers. This personnel grouping is commonly utilized for its ability to spread the field and create mismatches, requiring defenses to adapt by placing extra defensive backs in coverage.

Ten personnel is another widely used grouping consisting of 1 running back, no tight ends, and 4 wide receivers. This formation focuses on passing the football and relies heavily on spreading the field to isolate coverage, thereby exploiting mismatches in the defense.

At a different end of the spectrum, 21 personnel features 2 running backs, 1 tight end, and 2 wide receivers. This formation is more aligned with a power-running attack, and due to the presence of a fullback, the offense gains a lead blocker to pave the way for the running back.

However, with the advent of the spread offense, 21 personnel has become less common, particularly in the NFL, where fullbacks aren’t utilized as frequently.

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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