1-on-1: To Burn or Not to Burn?
BERKELEY -- While it’s been evident over the past week or so that freshman quarterback Luke Rubenzer would, at the very least, be named California’s No. 2 signal caller, what hasn’t been evident is the fact that the title isn’t just a title: He may very well play.
"We'll see," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "We've got a week and a half to make those kinds of decisions. We'll see how that plays out. We've got a lot of stuff left to decide, and a lot more practices, game script and all that stuff. We'll see."
On Tuesday, he and sophomore starter Jared Goff repped nearly the same amount of throws, and it’s not just to see what he can do.
“He’s the second-best guy we’ve got, so you always have to prepare that guy as if he’s the one,” said offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. “He’s come in and he played in this offense in high school, he has a great knowledge of it, and his talent is really good, so we’ve got great confidence that, if he has to play, he’ll be good.”
Good enough now to burn his redshirt? It may be a case where there is a point in the season where, if Goff goes down before that point, Rubenzer will have his shirt burned, but if it happens after that point, he may not.
“You know, you always play that by ear, and see. It’s hard for a backup quarterback to go into a season and not play,” Franklin said. “Normally, they’re going to play, so we’re expecting him to play.”
So, too, is Rubenzer.
“They told me to come in and compete and do what I can, so I’m just doing what they ask of me right now,” Rubenzer said. “Whatever that is, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Running the Tony Franklin System in high school has certainly helped, as Rubenzer has not had any moments where it looks like he’s overwhelmed or uncertain about where to go with the ball. He certainly looked commanding both throwing and running on Tuesday.
“Our coaches went to his seminar and everything, so that’s part of the reason why I came to this school: I already knew the system, at least all the quick-game patterns and everything,” Rubenzer said. “I knew pretty much exactly what it was. It was just a matter of getting here and getting acclimated to all the receivers.”
While Goff came in early for an extra spring camp, Rubenzer has had years to learn some of the intricacies of this offense, and judging by what we’ve seen him do so far, he’s exploiting that experience, and Franklin has let him.
“I had a few years to get used to it, but it’s a different game,” Rubenzer said. “My high school was a lot more simplified. Obviously, there’s a big difference between college ball and high school ball. It definitely has helped, because you kind of know certain reads that you have to take in the quick game throws, so it’s definitely helped a lot to be in that offense the last couple of years.”
One thing that Rubenzer did so well in high school is the exact element of his game that Franklin has let him explore through fall camp: His mobility. Remember: Rubenzer rushed for 2,715 yards on 354 carries during his high school career.
“He was a really good runner in high school, and you hope that transfers over,” Franklin said. “You’re limited here with your live reps and stuff, but he’s what we thought he would be. He’s a good football player.”
On Monday, Rubenzer showed that he can be just as elusive against a college defense, when during 11-on-11 work, he saw a hole and got skinny quickly to squeeze between Trevor Kelly and Tony Mekari for a first down.
“[Franklin] told me he wants me, when I see a hole, rather than take off, kind of slide up and keep working and keep my eyes down the field,” Rubenzer said. “I’ve tried to do that. It’s just kind of instinct taking over right now, since I’ve been doing the same thing for the past few years. It’s not like he says it’s a bad thing, but it’s just something I need to work on, and he wants to see me get better at that, in the future.”
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