Notre Dame Football: Why Fighting Irish Must Play QB Malik Zaire in 2013

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Notre Dame Football: Why Fighting Irish Must Play QB Malik Zaire in 2013
Photo: 247Sports.com

A lot has been made about what Notre Dame will do after losing 2012 starting quarterback Everett Golson to academic issues.

And for good reason. Golson was basically the team's soul on offense last season, as the Fighting Irish advanced to the national championship game.

The easy answer is to plop senior Tommy Rees under center. Rees understands the offense and has experience as the starting quarterback from 2011. 

That's the wrong answer, though.

What do you want, Fighting Irish fans? Do you want to be simply decent or do you want to potentially be a true threat? If you want to be merely decent (and surely fail to get into a BCS bowl, I might add), you go with Rees. Sure, he will be safer in terms of understanding the offense, but he's not exactly a safe option under center. I don't have to remind you that he tossed 14 interceptions and lost five fumbles in 2011, but I will. Hopefully the ensuing flashbacks will drive home my point.

In my opinion, Notre Dame needs to take risks this season. There's no reason to trot Rees out there and hope for the best. We already know who he is, a quarterback with a mediocre arm, whose play fluctuates from game to game. If that is who you are starting, you may as well play a quarterback without much experience but more talent.

Enter freshman Malik Zaire.

Zaire, rated as the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 class by 247Sports.com, has plenty of potential. He's been compared to Clemson's Tajh Boyd as a left-handed gunslinger with mobility. He's not only displayed accuracy with the pigskin inside the pocket, he's displayed accuracy with the pigskin on the run.

But what really intrigues me about Zaire is his poise, recognition skills and vision, as well as his fit in Brian Kelly's spread offense. 

Zaire has shown eye-opening presence under center at a young age—the kind of presence that could see him translate to the college game quicker than most. He knows where he needs to go with the ball, and he's also displayed the ability to lead his receivers and get the ball out quickly.

Zaire's running ability also will allow Kelly to use him in a similar capacity as he did with Golson in 2012. 

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Kelly has the opportunity to build up Zaire like he did with Golson.

And, don't forget, Golson was a first-year starter last season, yet Kelly was still able to mold him quickly into a respectable starting quarterback. Who's to say he can't do the same with Zaire?

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I'm not saying to exclusively start Zaire, though (unless he quickly improves by leaps and bounds). Putting him in a platoon with senior dual-threat Andrew Hendrix may be the way to go. That way, you have a guy who knows the system in and out, along with a kid who can do some electric things out on the field. It adds much more punch to the offense, and that's what the Fighting Irish need in Golson's absence. They don't need a blase approach. 

Sometimes it's easy for coaches to go with convention. But when Kelly switched from Rees to Golson in 2012, that wasn't conventional. Hopefully he remembers why Notre Dame got so far last season. It was because of his decision to plant a talented dual-threat into his spread offense and let him make plays.

 

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