Monday, August 30, 2010

Nick Saban: Cover 3 Adaptation (Mable/Skate) To 3x1

Continuing the review of handling one-back spread formations, the next logical step after you've accounted for 2x2, is how do you handle 3x1 (trips/trey)? All your adjustments to 2x2 can be pointless if you don't have a viable solution that can be 'broken' by a 3-receiver formation.
The Saban way of handling 3x1 out of Cover 3 is known as "mable", which is code for 'man'. This is actually a standard adjustment to trips if you're basing out of quarters. "Mable" (the same thing as "skate" in Cover 6), is manning the single-receiver backside, and pushing the zone coverage to the passing numbers. You're essentially playing zone front side and man backside.

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
Mike – backer to 3 receivers (final 3 player) Related to #3 receiver after distribution
  • #3 is inside - ROBOT, depth and jump underneath inside breaking route
  • #3 is outside - push the strong hook
Sam – (to trips) Relate to #2 receiver after distribution.
  • #3 inside (M has him) depth and jump #2
  • #3 outside carry inside-underneath
Strong Safety – (to trips)Looking to jump the first underneath receiver. Relate to #1 receiver after distribution)
  • #2 outside – jump it
  • #2 inside (S has it) buzz underneath
Corner (to trips) simply plays old 2-to-1 read Cover 3 because he has to match the 1st vertical threat.

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.


Unknown said...

Dude where do you get all this great info? lol

Anonymous said...


I'm curious about how this adaptation works against counter/yo-yo motion.

Say the offense starts in a standard 2X2 Doubles set out of 11 personnel, with the slot receiver off the line of scrimmage. Now, let's say the slot receiver motions across the formation to the other side, creating a standard trips look to that side. The obvious adjustment will be to check to the maple adjustment.

Now, what if the slot receiver returns back to his inital position? Will the defense then "re-check" to the original coverage call? How do you as a defense guard against guys being confused and trying to figure out what to play? By the time the offense snaps the ball you may be looking at a situation where half the D is doing one thing (combo coverage) and the other half is doing something else (Rip/Liz match).

I've always been curious how you deal with motion in these types of match schemes. Granted, you usually don't see an offense do a complete yo-yo motion (normally they'll just send the receiver a little past the center, and then he'll return). Still, I've always wondered what you would do as a defense if the offense did this.

Thanks in advance.

brophy said...

One thing to keep in perspective, is this doesn't deviate much at all from how they pattern-match. The motion won't change the "coverage" (nothing changes) - you're only dealing with how the receivers play out. "Mable/Rip/Liz/etc" are just communicating how the routes will be accounted for.

You either have 1,2, or 3 threats to a side and the rules accomodate the threats, respectively. 2x2 to 3x1 or 3x2, rip/liz becomes same as 'mable'

DonkeyPunch22 said...

Thanks Brohpy! If you ever come to Hawaii, let me know. I'd like to shake your hand, and treat you to a meal!

Anonymous said...

What does the term "ROBOT" mean? While I am at it what does "Rock and ROll and Rocket mean in coverage?"

Rocksolid2256 said...

Great stuff! I am a high school defensive coordinator. Quarterbacks on the high school level have become really advanced reading coverages pre-snap while also being able to pull it and get out the back side with the zone read. Everybody except the five offensive lineman can get out and score in your really good programs. These 7-7 passing tournaments in the summer in high schools have really made the game fast! If you are going to defense these people you are going to have to match routes and put pressure on people while  hiding as much of what your doing as possible!

H2O said...


In Mable/Skate, how would #1 vert, #2 vert, #3 arrow be defended? Who would be responsible for #2 in the quick seam? The SS can't get out leveraged by #3 correct?

Thanks in advance

brophyfootball said...

thanks for reading and commenting.
Corner over #1 carries vertical
Cover down over #2 (first out) is the (C3 zone) buzz defender would hold the seam (<10 yds) until buzzing the flat (pick up #3 arrow).
The backer/safety over #3 carries #2 vertical.

The ILB (first inside / match 3) would carry #3 vertical if he didn't go out.
Mable (strong) is not anything more than old country cover 3

H20 said...

Thanks Brophy!

One more for you. We ran into this issue today.

3x1 situation (playing Mable rules)

#1 drag under
#2 hook (12-15 yards)
#3 drag under
RB swing to single receiver side

With what I've gathered on the rules, this is how it would be played...

- CB to trips bails to #2 (looking for a deep out by #2)
- Cover down/SS (C/F) drops to #1 curl (looking for shallow out by #2)
- Backer/Safety (H/C) cuts on #1 under
- ILB walls the #3 drag under.

Who plays the hook by #2?

Am I misunderstanding some of the base rules?

Thanks again!

brophyfootball said...

its simpler if you just distill it all down to you've got 1 in the curl and 2 running inside (after distribution).
Corner is over the top of the curl with the buzz defender dropping into the curl.
The remaining defenders run with the remaining receivers (1st backer inside takes 1st crosser, 1st backer outside takes 2nd crosser).
1 & 2 backside are handled between the corner and backer.

Old Timer said...

How would Mable cover trips with R1 and R2 running posts and R3 running a wheel? Who has the wheel?

Pure match up would have corner and SS covering the posts with OLB running with the wheel.

The rules given for Mable seem to have the SS turning the R2 post over to the FS, and hanging under R1. Would SS pick up the R3 wheel?

Old timer