Most running plays are designed for one of the running backs, rather than the quarterback, to carry the ball. Once quarterbacks take the ball from the center, their next job is to move into position so that they can hand off the ball to the running back. When running backs get the handoff from the quarterback, both palms of the hands should be open to the quarterback with the thumbs out and elbows in; the fingers should be spread in position to secure the ball. The quarterback is responsible for placing the ball firmly into the pocket formed by the running back’s hands at the midsection, and the running back is responsible for securing the ball. When the ball is placed in the belly, the running back will bring one hand over the ball, clamping it with his elbow. Running backs should keep both hands on the ball until they get beyond the traffic at the line of scrimmage. If both players do their jobs, the handoff should be successful. Figure 7.17 shows a running back in proper handoff position.
On some running plays, the running back may not receive a direct handoff from the quarterback. Instead, the ball is pitched or tossed so that the running back can quickly get to the outside of the formation. The running back must watch the ball into both hands and must not run with the ball until it is caught. In preparing to catch the ball, the running back’s hands should be wide open with the little fingers together and palms up for a ball at waist level (see figure 7.18a on page 104) or with the thumbs together for a toss chest high (see figure 7.18b). On making the catch, the running back should secure the ball and should be prepared to make a cut and head up the field.