Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 44 of 99 PRESEASON 2016 45 interview, Zaire used some variation of the word "pro" 40 times in regard to how he'll handle the difficult decision. "You know me, I feel like I can be the guy," Zaire said. "I know I'm the guy. It's just how it plays out in Coach Kelly's world." In the spring, Kelly said his main concern with playing both quarter- backs would be the offense's lack of identity, a problem that plagued Ohio State during its inconsistent season in 2015. The Buckeyes rotated both J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones with varying degrees of success and ultimately went on to defeat the Irish in the Fiesta Bowl after settling on Barrett as the full-time starter. Associate head coach Mike Den- brock, who has a hand in the play calls on game day, said he doesn't envision the same problems Ohio State had last year impacting Notre Dame in 2016. Kelly said the play calls will develop Notre Dame's identity this season. "If you're all over the map in terms of what you're doing — are you a team that is not committed to some- thing? Are you a team that is not bal- anced and can't run the football or is going to throw it every down?" Kelly said. "Your identity really comes from inside out — and that is con- trolling the line of scrimmage. "So that's what I mean relative to identity. It's going to be plug and play with the quarterbacks and running backs, provided your system of offense allows to you grow an identity, and we'll do that from some play calling." Denbrock, a former defensive co- ordinator at both Grand Valley State and Buffalo, knows the challenge op- posing teams will face game planning for both Kizer and Zaire, saying the idea is "enough to drive you crazy." "They both possess qualities of playmaking ability," Denbrock said. "Whether it's moving in the pocket and making a throw or it's getting out in space and making something hap- pen with their feet. There are some differences between the two of course, but there's a lot more similarities. It allows us to be pretty standard across the board game plan-wise with each." Kelly was asked about possibly putting both quarterbacks on the field at the same time, an unconventional but potentially lethal combination. The coach said he'd "consider it." Denbrock said the idea is like a "little bit of a mad scientist." Zaire was dis- missive when asked about the pos- sibility, while Kizer seemed excited to throw a potential wrinkle into the mix. "Two dual-threat quarterbacks who can throw it, run it, catch it, kick it, whatever you want," said Kizer, who showed off his strong hands while catching footballs from a Jugs machine while at Culver Academies. "If we can both be on the field that would be awesome." Sanford, entering his second season at Notre Dame after a year at Boise State, said it's human condition for tension to exist between two quarter- backs competing for the starting job. That friction isn't all bad, and the coach noted that the first two weeks of preseason practice and the ongo- ing battle have brought out the best in Kizer and Zaire. "You want to see the best version of the individual in each one of them, and each day that's really been my chal- lenge: trying to bring out the best in each individual quarterback," Sanford said. "When you do that over time, if it goes as planned and those guys put the work in, you end up having two pretty darn good players, which makes your decision a little harder." And while both Kizer and Zaire had negative reactions to the plan at first, both expressed support of Kelly's decision. "Being a pro, you have to under- stand what's important and what the team needs to win the game, and I treat my job like a professional," Zaire said. "I do what is asked of me, and I do above and beyond of what is expected of me." "When something like this hap- pens you quickly have a bunch of selfish thoughts about the situation," Kizer said. "After a long conversa- tion with my parents, it was quickly understood that this is about some- thing a lot bigger than who I am and what my aspirations are this season. "This is about Notre Dame and winning football games, and that's what I came here to do." ✦ WILL PLAY In his two starts last year, Zaire threw for 428 yards and four touchdowns while adding 103 rushing yards. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason 2016