The Singleback is likely the single most important skilled position in the Run and Shoot besides the Quarterback. The term “superback” sometimes is used in place of singleback (SB) because the SB must be able to not only carry the ball in the offense, but also must be able to run routes in the passing game as well as provide support in pass protection schemes. Truly this player must be a hybrid and a do-it all back.
First, the singleback must be able to run the football and to take the physical punishment that it entails. Often the SB will have to earn the tough yards up center and guard on triple option plays and called dives as well as the midline option. During the option plays the SB will likely be hit and tackled regardless of whether he receives the ball or not, and in fact will have done his job if he is tackled as a decoy. However, the singleback must also be able to be fleet footed and run counter and off-tackle plays as well as speed and SB options to the outside. Therefore, size and strength must be balanced with speed and agility to create a formidable back.
Second, the SB must be able to become involved in the passing game. Many times he must be able to run swing routes and flat routes to be a check down or hot receiver for the QB. Other times designed passing schemes will call for him to motion out of the back field and become a 5th Wide Receiver. As a 5th WR in the slot position, the SB can gain an advantage over a usually slower, less agile middle linebacker who is often forced to cover him. However, the SB must be aware at all times of blitzing defenders and be looking for a pass to come hot, as the protection will only be with 5 lineman once he leaves, and if the defense brings more than 5 rushers the QB will be looking to dump off the ball quickly.
Third, it is critical that the SB be able to pick up blitzing linebackers and defensive ends in slide protection schemes. The SB must be strong and tough enough to handle Defensive ends who may be bigger than he is, and to push them on past the QB in the pocket. He must be intelligent and quick and not give up inside position, but force the defensive end to “run the hump” to the outside and allow the QB to step up into the pocket. Essentially, in this capacity the SB becomes a glorified lineman, a 6th lineman. Often times it is beneficial for the SB to practice during blitz protection period with the offensive line during the week to hone his skills on blitz protection. Being smart and able to identify where his man will come from based on the front is critical. The SB must be able to ascertain whether he will face a DE on the line, or if because of the front if he will be looking for a blitzing OLB or safety off the edge.
In summation, the SB must be all things. He must be big (typically around 5’9-6’1 and between 190-240 lbs) and strong, but still must be agile and quick. Above all he must be intelligent. He must be able to recognize blitz pick up, hot reads, route breaks, and able to understand offensive blocking schemes to understand where a run might “pop”. Finally, if the team decides to run a no huddle offense or a 2 minute offense, the SB usually aids the QB in getting the personnel lined up on the field and acts as a secondary field general. Therefore, this player…..like the QB, must be a jack of all trades and have a level head for the offense to be successful.