Notre Dame has seen a major shake-up in its quarterback position over the last week. Gunner Kiel, once hailed as the savior of the Irish offense, will now transfer without ever setting foot on the field.
While the loss is disappointing, the Irish football team will be fine without the 6'4" former 5-star recruit.
Meet Malik Zaire. There is a lot to like about the 6'1", 196-pound lefty out of Kettering, Ohio. He has incredible skill and finesse in the pass game, with a smooth delivery and a natural talent for spotting alternate receivers when the primary is bogged down in coverage. He also keeps a cool head when plays deteriorate and has incredible speed, racking up over 1,100 yards on the ground last year, according to Kieth Arnold of NBCSports.com.
Zaire has also impressed coaches at the next level with his savvy and natural ability. According to Arnold, Elite 11 camp coach Yogi Roth was "higher on Zaire than Notre Dame’s last two QB signees, Gunner Kiel and Everett Golson." That is a strong vote of confidence.
Notre Dame is not the only college to take note of Zaire's impressive skill set. He received offers from Alabama, Arizona, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Zaire appears to be the perfect fit for the kind of offense Brian Kelly has spent the last three years developing: run-heavy with a powerful, dual-threat quarterback who will keep defenders on their toes.
Kelly will need to work with Zaire on his accuracy, which can be inconsistent at times, but he will have plenty of time to develop him while Golson remains the unchallenged starter for at least another year.
Will Notre Dame be Fine Without Gunner Kiel?
Kiel's transfer may result in Zaire skipping his redshirt year to be Golson's understudy. This is certainly not a foregone conclusion, though. Tommy Rees did a respectable job when called upon to fill in for Gloson last year, so Kelly may feel comfortable letting him remain second on the depth chart for another year while he molds Zaire into the ultimate dual-threat quarterback.
Last, but certainly not least, is the handiwork of Golson.
Say what you want about the guy, but he got to the national championship in his freshman year, and not many quarterbacks can say that. Yes, he needs to elevate his pass efficiency and spend a little more time in the pocket, but he vastly improved toward the end of the regular season last year, and there is no reason to assume he won't continue to improve this spring.
*All star rankings referenced from Rivals.com.