Gridiron Glossary: Reverse

An offensive play in which the ball is run in one direction before being handed or pitched to another player running in the opposite direction.

A reverse is designed to use the defense’s pursuit against itself.  The play begins by running in one direction and the defense runs to that side of the field to make the tackle.  Then another player, who is coming in the opposite direction, is given the ball with a running start.


The proper way to defend the reverse is to have backside pursuit through the backfield.  The defenders on the back side of the play, particularly the defensive ends must chase the play through the backfield.  If they pursue down field, the reverse can be effective against them.

Usually a wide receiver is the player who is handed the ball on a reverse, but every time a receiver is handed the ball is not a reverse.  An end around play where the receiver comes through the backfield to take a hand off is not a reverse.  The ball must be moving in one direction and then have another player reverse that direction for it to be a reverse.

Gridiron Glossary is a resource for football terms that are often used by commentators, coaches and players but rarely defined.  If there is a term you have questions about or a definition you don’t agree with, let me know at

About Billy Koehler

Billy Koehler is the founder of and a contributing writer at He has been covering college football since 2006. You can follow him on twitter @billykoehler.
This entry was posted in Concepts, Glossary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.