In the early season, before such a thing as a team exists, its place can be, to a great extent, filled by a division of all the material into squads of four. These are little, rudimentary teams consisting of a center, quarter back and two halves. All the men who appear fitted for center can play the position on these squads and the quarter back material can pass the ball. Every other position on the team will fit into the half back work of these squads of four. Of course, in this formation, the center learns just how to stand, how to pass the ball to the quarter and how to charge when passing it. It is also obvious that the quarter backs, especially if there are several likely candidates, could receive no better work. The three other men line up so quickly that the quarter back's practice is nearly doubled, while he can reel off signals for all ordinary plays until he is able to think far faster than an entire eleven could execute his commands. He can use these backs for imaginary plunges through the line, as well as for runs around the end.
But a still greater value of the squads of four is the benefit to the linesmen. In many a season which starts with doubtful prospect, the winning shake-up which gives the coach the title of "Wizard" is nothing more than the application of the half back lessons, taught through the squad of four. The guards, tackles and ends receive as much benefit from playing the half back positions as the regular halves, for, first of all, this work increases the speed of every man. It is often good policy to place a fast and slow man together on a squad, where, instead of retarding the speed of the fast man, the slow player develops as much ginger as his speedier companion. Wind and endurance, which fit men for the strenuous work later on and which may even be the foundation for producing the fastest eleven of the season, are certain products of this squad drill. The team which is picked from such preliminary formations has an entire set of linesmen, familiar with the duties of the hack field positions.
Work for the center, quarter back and all the other men. This work will develop speed, endurance and starting. All will become familiar with handling and carrying the ball.
The inevitable result of placing men with such training on the line is to give the offense great variety of attack. Whenever these same linesmen, later in the season, are called back to carry the ball, they are at home. They know what to do and exactly how it should be done. These linesmen will thus be enabled to take their share of the offensive work off the shoulders of the backs, who, in many elevens, are required to do more than any man's strength can endure. Many linesmen will prove to be ground-gainers of the highest ability and effectiveness. Frequently the men playing in the line, though they may have been tried out, have not sufficient practice in ground-gaining tactics to become successes, whereas, had they received one-half the opportunity of the backs in practice of advancing the ball, they would develop into offensive players even more valuable than the regular occupants of the backfield positions.
Even after linesmen prove to be of little use as ground-gainers, as some of them undoubtedly will, their training behind the scrimmage line will be of wonderful value in the performance of their regular duties.