The boundary side of the field is the short side based on where the ball is placed before the snap. Conversely, the field side is the wide side of the field where there is more room for the play. The closer the ball is to the hashes the less room there is to the boundary on that side of the field. Identifying the boundary / field side can help defenses adjust their alignment for run fits and zone coverages.
The field and boundary designations are more important in college football than in the NFL, as the hash marks are farther apart and therefore can create more (or less) space to the field and boundary sides. An example of the boundary and field side can be seen below, courtesy of the 2016 game between Cal and Washington State. The receivers and defenders to the field side have far more space to operate, and as such are more spread out in their splits, while the players to the boundary side are more condensed.
The boundary side of the field is the short side, and some teams will use this to determine where each corner plays. In schemes like these, there will be a boundary corner who plays the short side of the field on every play. Most college teams that use boundary / field designations use their best corner to the boundary, allowing them to devote more defenders to the field side. Additionally, if a team is running Cover 6, also known as quarter-quarter-half coverage, the boundary side will be the “half” side of the field where the team is running Cover 2.
An example of a team running Cover 6 and using the boundary side of the field for the “half” coverage comes from the Colorado Buffaloes. In the example below from their 2016 game against the Colorado State Rams, the Buffs will run Cover 6 by using the boundary/field determination.
The Rams have a 2X2 set, with an even amount of receivers to each side of the field. Therefore, they use the boundary/field determination to decide which side of the Cover 6 coverage will be quarter-quarter (Cover 4) and which will be half coverage (Cover 2).
The boundary side of the field, the short side, is a useful determination for offenses and defenses to make, and a simple one to identify.
See also: Field Side
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Ryan Dukarm wrote this entry. Follow Ryan on Twitter @DBRyan_Dukarm.
Film courtesy of NFL Game Pass and DraftBreakdown