Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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44 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MATT JONES I t's a decision that both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire wanted to avoid. In the end, Brian Kelly felt he had no choice. On the evening of Aug. 16, Notre Dame's seventh-year head coach met with his top two quarterbacks and informed them of his plans for the Sept. 4 season opener at Texas. Both will play, and if Kelly has it his way, both will embrace the situa- tion and lead the Irish to a win. "It was just counterintuitive for me to take one of them off the field at the expense of putting somebody else on the field for so many more plays and saying, 'You're the No. 2, you're not going to play in this game,'" Kelly said at Notre Dame's media day. "It just didn't make any sense to me." Following the spring game in April, Kelly told reporters that he wanted to have a defined starter rather than split reps between Kizer, a junior, and Zaire, a senior. But as preseason practice progressed, it be- came clearer that Notre Dame's best lineup on offense includes both quar- terbacks in some form or fashion. With those facts, Kelly made the call to split the quarterback duties for Texas, a controversial decision to many outsiders that see more negatives than positives coming as a result. Kelly said he has not looked past the Texas game in terms of quarterback play. "It's not the most ideal situation, but as a pro you have to deal with the cards you're dealt and make something hap- pen," Zaire said. "My whole goal is to turn chicken crap into chicken salad. We've got to make [Kelly] right." Kelly has some experience playing two quarterbacks. At Cincinnati in 2009, both Tony Pike (a 6-6 senior and established passer) and Zach Collaros (a redshirt sophomore and dual-threat specialist) played, but that was more a result of Pike suffer- ing an injury. The Bearcats went 12-0 in the regular season and went to the Sugar Bowl, averaging 39.8 points per game in the process. In 2012 at Notre Dame, another 12-0 regular season, Kelly used both Everett Golson and Tommy Rees, al- though that was not technically a ro- tation. Kelly did rotate quarterbacks in the 2014 Music City Bowl win against LSU, playing both Golson and Zaire. "I'm going to have to rely heavily on Coach Kelly's expertise and expe- rience — and quite frankly for me as a coach, I look forward to that being one more area that I can grow in," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford said. "Certainly this situation will be one that will be exciting to be a part of." After Zaire broke his foot in game two against Virginia in 2015, Kizer started the remaining 11 contests, com- pleting 63 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Kizer, who is much more than a prototypical 6-4, 230-pound pocket passer, has the arm and accuracy but also set a school record with 10 quar- terback rushing touchdowns among his 520 rushing yards last season. Zaire, a game-breaking talent with his legs at 6-0, 225 pounds, has been a crisp passer throughout preseason practice and showed his immense potential during last year's win over Texas, completing 19 of 22 throws for 313 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. "I believe this situation is a little different than any he's ever been in," Kizer said, "and I'm curious to see how he figures it out." Kizer and Zaire — both Ohio na- tives and fierce competitors — ex- pressed their disappointment in not being named the outright starter for the opener. In his 30-minute media day THEY BOTH DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will split the snaps against Texas, a decision Brian Kelly said is best for the team Kizer accounted for 3,404 yards of total offense and 31 touchdowns while making 11 starts in 2015. PHOTO BY ANDREW IVINS

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