The front side players will simply match the receiving threats as they normally would out of Cover 3. A lot can be assumed that the Cover 3 adjustments to spread are philosophical changes in how the secondary is played. Actually, that isn't the case - the 'secondary' teaching is quite subtle. The fulcrum of the Rip/Liz/Mable (3 deep zone) success is going to come with your inside linebackers. Those two players will control the guts of the coverage, and fully support everything that is being handled by the secondary.
As you can see by the diagram, nothing much changes with the secondary players. We will go over how the "alert" players (M&W) are to handle 3x1 formations:
btw - this becomes the "Zeke" adjustment to any trips look
This isn't a different coverage, just a built-in system for handling stressors of the base concept, and doesn't deviate much at all (from the call side) the standard pattern-match rules.
Let's go over the rules.....
In 3x1 (mable)
Will – backer to the single split side.
- Back flow TO – match it (jump the flare)
- Back flow AWAY – cut the 1st crosser
- #3 is inside - ROBOT, depth and jump underneath inside breaking route
- #3 is outside - push the strong hook
- #3 inside (M has him) depth and jump #2
- #3 outside carry inside-underneath
- #2 outside – jump it
- #2 inside (S has it) buzz underneath
Again, as you see the reaction of the inside linebackers becomes the fundamental under current of Rip/Liz/Mable/Skate, allowing them to aggressively play run (flow) and put them in great leverage position based on this reaction. If those inside backers are trained appropriately, you will have an automatic response to handle most every route combination.
As a footnote, I'll just say that we've covered adaptations, the evolution, of standard zone coverage (by one who has been setting successful trends for a few decades). Saban, himself, doesn't just sit in one coverage throughout a game or rely on these rules / adjustments to beat-all. His defenses and how he uses/employs them is actually quite different. Using a 'pro approach', the defense is purely situational and will handle formations, D&D, areas of the field, differently and on a situation-by-situation basis.