BERKELEY -- At 6-foot, 185 pounds, California quarterback-turned-safety Luke Rubenzer has, at times, been considered the runt of the litter. But, with 43 tackles last season -- his first on defense -- Rubenzer is now something else: The pick of the litter.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1689352-countdown-to-kicko... With Hardy Nickerson (112 tackles) transferring to Illinois, Kyle Kragen (73 tackles) graduating, Damariay Drew (71) going down late in the spring with an ACL tear, Stefan McClure (61) and Darius White (59) heading to the Indianapolis Colts and Jalen Jefferson (60) graduating, and the injury retirements of Griffin Piatt and Caleb Coleman, that leaves Rubenzer as the top returning tackler from last season, and one of the few safeties with substantial game experience. It's a position he doesn't take lightly.
"I knew I was up there, but I didn't know that," Rubenzer said on Friday, Cal's first day in full pads this fall camp. "It does put a little pressure on [the returners], but at the end of the day, it's the opportunity we've all been waiting for -- me, [Evan] Rambo, [Khari] Vanderbilt, Jacob Anderson, we've all had pretty good camps so far. This is what we've been waiting for. We've been waiting for the opportunity to really compete for the No. 1 spot."
Rubenzer thought the opportunity he'd been waiting for came when he played as a true freshman. A three-star recruit out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro who competed in the Elite 11 Finals, Rubenzer backed up Jared Goff in 2014, playing in 11 games and completing 12 of 22 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing 52 times (second most on the team) for 207 yards and three touchdowns -- both third-most among Cal ball carriers.
With Goff a sure-fire first-round draft pick headed into his junior season, Rubenzer moved to safety last season, playing in 13 games with one start, and tallying two interceptions on defense. Rubenzer had played 14 games at safety with 14 tackles at Saguaro as a senior, and 12 games as a junior. It was a natural transition.
When Goff left for the NFL, Rubenzer figured it was high time to get back to what he did best -- quarterbacking.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1660053-rubenzer-flips-bac...For seven practices this spring, Rubenzer toiled away amidst a five-man race to replace Goff, but in the eighth practice, something went awry. Drew, during a non-contact drill, went down in a heap.
Seeing Drew on the turf was a moment of clarity for Rubenzer. Ever since flipping back to offense, he'd felt out of place, uncomfortable in his own skin. Something just wasn't right. He'd been feeling out of place ever since pulling on the yellow no-contact jersey.
"I guess being away from the position, I just felt out of place," Rubenzer said. "I just decided that being a safety would be more comfortable, and would make it more enjoyable, at the end of the day. Just coming from safety, especially in a cover-4 scheme like we run, there's a lot of hitting, a lot of contact. At quarterback, there's not so much. That was part of it. I just felt like I could do more. The quarterback position's a lot, but I just felt more comfortable. It's tough to explain. I've been asked this question quite a bit. At the end of the day, I just felt more comfortable on defense."
Once Drew went down, Rubenzer's decision was cemented.
"I think it hit me," Rubenzer said. "I made my final decision when Damariay got hurt. I saw him go down, and I just felt like, I mean, we had guys, and we would have been OK without me playing defense, but to me, it didn't seem like just a coincidence. I was already having second thoughts about going back to quarterback. Then, that happened, and it fell into my lap. I think everything happens for a reason."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1661619-stovall-a-special-... With the spring game being just his third practice back on the defensive side of the ball, Rubenzer turned in a goal-line interception. It was like riding a bike. The universe had made the decision for Rubenzer.
But, the universe can only do so much. Rubenzer wanted to be better. So, he called up his old speed coach, Will Sullivan, and told him he'd be back in Arizona at the end of July. With NFL training camps coming up, Sullivan was booked, but he had another idea: Preston Hale.
"I did a lot of extra DB work, since I moved back from quarterback," Rubenzer said. "It was a lot of reaction drills and just working out at the position ... Just working on techniques and getting out of breaks. Something that coach [Greg] Burns really stresses, that I've put an emphasis on since camp started, is keeping leverage. That's kind of what our defense is based around: Leverage, how to leverage in your gap, how to leverage on your man. If you have your leverage, you're going to win 75 percent of the time. That's the one thing that I've put a stress on, this camp. If we have outside leverage, we've got to stay outside, no matter what. That's really helped out a lot, just allows you to see the routes coming."
In the Bears' fifth practice of the fall, Rubenzer hauled in two interceptions -- his second and third of camp -- tying him for the most on the team with veteran corner Darius Allensworth. A day before, Rubenzer hauled in a tipped pass by Mesa Community College alum Derron Brown, and returned it for a touchdown. A pick six.
"I think I just found my comfort zone," said Rubenzer. "It feels good to be back there. Everything's slowing down for me, now. I know the defense. It's not a matter of having to learn it anymore. It's just review. I'm a lot more comfortable making all the calls."