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In American football, there are various position designations for runners that carry the ball across the line of scrimmage: full, half and running back.

Are there any differences between the three positions in terms of roles?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Running backs come in two types: fullbacks and halfbacks (aka tailbacks).

By default, if somebody is talking about a running back without specifying, they're probably talking about the halfback/tailback, because this is the position that carries the ball most of the time and has the most visibility and name recognition.

The fullback is used as a lead blocker, running out in front of the play to set blocks and clear a path for the tailback.

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This answer is correct for basically all "pro" style offenses. This distinction is not always as clear cut, semantically speaking, given the style of offense being run. For instance, consider the Flexbone offense ran by Paul Johnson coached teams (current Georgia Tech in the NCAA FBS division) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexbone_formation. There is a fullback (with his hand on the ground only about 3 yards behind the QB)and two wingbacks, with no traditional tailback. –  whaley Jun 16 '13 at 19:17
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