Rubin: Staff Playing it Safe?

Mark Rubin.

With Penn State's spring practice wrapping up, one player who continues to have questions circling him is Mark Rubin, the former wide receiver who has seen his spring reps at safety. Why the move to safety? How does the PSU coaching staff plan on using him in 2006? Learn more about Rubin's current situation.

To say Penn State's passing game struggled during the 2004 season is probably an understatement. To compare, the Nittany Lions saw a 26 percent increase in passing yards in 2005 (1,989 in 2004 vs. 2,505 yds. in 2005). The team also experienced a 80 percent increase in passing touchdowns over the period (10 in 2004 vs. 18 in 2005).

Despite the offensive troubles of the 2004 season, the PSU coaches found a bright spot in true freshman Mark Rubin. The "lanky" wideout stepped onto the University Park campus at 6-foot-3, 208 pounds with a 4.6 40-yard dash. He saw his first action during the fourth game of the season, against Wisconsin. He went on that year to start at wideout for six of the remaining seven games.

During the course of the season he proved to be a clutch target for Zack Mills, pulling in 16 passes for 187 yards (more nine percent of the season's passing yardage).

Unfortunately, that momentum was halted in 2005 when he sustained a ankle injury in late August which sidelined him for the 2005 season, making way for the likes of Deon Butler, Derrick Williams, Justin King and Jordan Norwood to bring the passing game to new heights.

Fully recovered, Rubin finally got the green light to get back into practice drills for the Orange Bowl in December. During the bowl prep he saw scout team reps at both wideout and safety. "Almost everyone on the foreign squad plays both ways," an observer said. "So it wasn't a big deal to see Mark at safety."

Though perhaps unintended, seeing him play the position got some coaches thinking of a possible permanent move to defense. As an observer shared, "[Mike] McQueary wants Rubin at wideout, but [Joe] Paterno likes him at safety. He feels he can be the next John Lynch."

The redshirt season made Rubin stronger and faster. Still around 6-foot-3, he is now up around 216 pounds with 4.6 percent body fat and is described as "nicely put together." Aside from his size, his speed has also improved, reducing his time to the low 4.5 range in the 40-yard dash.

With the consensus around the program that Rubin's heart is on the offensive side of the ball, he has worked his way up to see first-team reps at free safety this spring. Although he doesn't have the "explosive burst" of a Spencer Ridenhour or Anthony Scirrotto, he does show nice overall technique and good intial reads.

Then again the safety position isn't exactly foreign to Rubin, having played it in high school. Though the role at Penn State is dramatically more defined, with greater discipline from his days at Amherst (N.Y.) Central High.

Despite the difference, Rubin has picked up the responsbilties well through the spring. "he looks good in Drill 6," according to one practice observer. "He's made some nice reads on breakups and pulled in some intercetptions on [Anthony} Morelli."

However, the debate continues around where Rubin is best suited to impact the 2006 Lions. As one observer put it, "I think if you polled the program, most see Mark as a receiver. However, if Joe [Paterno] likes him at safety, I bet you can guess where he is going to play."

Where would you play Rubin?

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