As it is every season, expectations were high in South Bend, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were thought by some to be legitimate contenders to make a push to the College Football Playoff. A lot of that hype was bought in due to a very deep defensive group and the pending emergence of Malik Zaire as the team’s starting quarterback.
The junior signal caller looked as if he was on his way to beating out Everett Golson, who led the Irish to the National Championship game in 2012, during spring drills until the latter decided to transfer to Florida State – defaulting the battle to Zaire.
After the opener against Texas, the hype seemed real, as Zaire completed 19-of-22 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns.
But during a run in the Irish’s slimmest of wins against the Virginia Cavaliers, Zaire’s ankle was rolled over – fracturing it in the process – and and will force him to miss the rest of the season.
Notre Dame was able to survive the game, due to a last second heave down the field to Will Fuller – thrown by DeShone Kizer – who will now take over the signal calling of an Irish offense that is loaded with weapons.
DeShone Kizer Ready To Be The Guy For Notre Dame
Kizer, who did not see any action as a true freshman, will now take control of a team that has some similarities as the 2012 version that went to the National Championship game. With Golson at the helm, he relied on a stout defense and was flanked by playmakers like T.J. Jones, Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick, and Cierre Wood around him on offense.
The Central Catholic graduate will have one of the game’s premier deep threats in all of college football with Fuller, a deep receiving core behind him, an experienced line to go along with the most pleasant surprise on offense two games in – C.J. Prosise.
One of the top recruits in the entire nation coming out of high school, Kizer was ranked as the 40th best player by Tom Lemming of CBSSports, 161st by 247 Sports, and 263rd by Scout.com. Playing for Central Catholic out of Toledo, Ohio, Kizer threw for 2,847 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior, adding in 539 yards and six scores on the ground. Not only did he showcase the dual-threat talent as a quarterback, he was a decent punter – averaging 41.2 yards per kick.
As for going forward, Kizer may be looked upon to be more of a game manager like Golson was in 2012, but that doesn’t mean coach Brian Kelly doesn’t believe he can’t be more than that.
“Certainly DeShone Kizer doesn’t have the experience that Malik (Zaire) has,” said the Irish’s coach. “But we can run our offense through DeShone. He has a lot of weapons around him and we saw that tonight. He has a running back and receivers.”
Kelly reiterated that while it’s regrettable what happened to Zaire, it is still part of the game – something everyone have to overcome.
“Teams have to overcome injuries. It is unfortunate but it is what it is and we will find a way to put it together so we can win games with DeShone Kizer as our starting quarterback.”
Realizing Kizer, while he is in his second year on campus, may need some more time to fully grasp the playbook, Kelly seemed ready to adjust the play calling to where his signal caller is at currently.
“Well, I think there’s some things that we have to do in terms of our game plan, first of all, and you know, pairing it to the point where he feels comfortable with what we’re doing offensively.”
But despite the injury to their starting quarterback occurred on a designed running play, Kelly isn’t going to be shy about running Kizer, who at 6’4” 230 pounds, provides a potentially imposing force in the run game.
“I would say he’s a bigger kid,” Kelly said of Kizer in comparison to Golson, when asked if he favors more to the former Irish signal caller. “We feel comfortable running him and we’ll continue to run our read option series with him. He’ll be part of our running game.”
Even though Kizer has only two games and 13 passes to his college credit, he does enter this week with only two less starts than Zaire does – and 13 more passes than Golson did when he became a full-time starter.
As for Kizer himself, when asked how he felt when being called into the game “Not much went through my mind it was kind of funny. I go to bed the night before a game preparing for that to happen and I just kind of blanked.”
Realizing the situation, Kizer said he ‘wasn’t going to be the guy to come in, and lose a game for the Irish’, and that he ‘prepares way too much for me not to give my all during a game.’
On being the starter from this point forward, “I’ve been ready for a while. I have no doubt in my ability to be the quarterback for Notre Dame.”
It’s not the easiest of games to be making his starting debut – against ranked Georgia Tech – but there can’t be much doubt in the fact that Kizer will as prepared as humanly possible when Saturday rolls around.