ITP Glossary: False Start

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

False Start

A false start is a penalty against the offense for moving before the snap of the ball in a fashion that simulates the beginning of a play. According to the NFL Rulebook, a false start can also be called when a player in motion makes a “sudden move to the line of scrimmage.” Further, any quick abrupt movement by a single offensive player, or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap, is a false start.”

False starts are most often called on offensive linemen, as they are generally waiting for the cadence from the quarterback, whereas receivers, running backs, and tight ends are taught to watch the ball and wait for it to be snapped before moving. A false start penalty costs the offense 5 yards, or half the distance to goal if the ball was within the 10 yard line.

In this example from the 2015 game between University of Florida and University of Georgia, right tackle Kolton Houston (#75) commits a false start penalty, costing the Bulldogs 5 yards. When the quarterback gives a fake cadence, Houston starts to begin his kick step. However, the damage has been done as Houston simulated the beginning of a play before the snap, drawing a flag from the referees.  

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A false start penalty can also be called if a player simulates a snap by moving, such as a quarterback thrusting his hands forward to attempt to draw the defense offsides. If a player in the shotgun formation (either a quarterback or running back) moves their feet quickly or abruptly that is also considered a false start. Finally, a center can be called for a false start if he abruptly moves the ball, commonly referred to as a snap infraction. If a center simulates a snap, removes his hands from the ball, or adjusts the location / positioning of the ball after the offense is set he will called for a false start.  

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Ryan Dukarm wrote this entry. Follow Ryan on Twitter @DBRyan_Dukarm.

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