Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 57 of 99

58 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED N otre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced Aug. 17 that both senior Malik Zaire and junior DeShone Kizer would play against Texas in the season opener. Whether or not the two-quarter- back rotation continues past that game has yet to be decided. Making a two-quarterback system work is difficult. The last Power Five team to win a conference champion- ship while rotating signal-callers was Florida in 2000. Since then, the only two-quarterback situations that re- sulted in championships were those in which one had a very small and concise role. It is tricky, but it can work. RUN GAME CONSISTENCY If one quarterback is going to have a small and specific role, the Notre Dame coaches can have a unique set of plays for that signal-caller. While Kelly's ultimate plan for Texas has yet to be determined, it's safe to as- sume that both players will get sig- nificant reps. For just one game, Notre Dame can have a system for Zaire and a sys- tem for Kizer with not a great deal of carryover. In order to keep the ar- rangement working beyond just one or two games, the offensive schemes have to be similar. There isn't enough practice time available in college to run two distinct offensive game plans, especially when it comes to the run game. A look at Notre Dame's ground success the last two years with Kizer and Zaire in the game shows that Notre Dame can carry a run game package that both quarterbacks can execute. Notre Dame's top run scheme is the inside zone and its read compo- nent. With Kizer behind the center, the offense averaged 5.6 yards every time it ran that play. The offense av- eraged 5.2 yards while running the play with Zaire at quarterback. Another top scheme is the outside zone/stretch concept. With Zaire in charge, the offense averaged 6.8 yards per attempt. With Kizer at the helm, the offense averaged 5.5 yards per try. Notre Dame's other base run con- cept is the power read. It averaged 9.3 yards per play with Zaire at quar- terback and 7.1 yards per snap with Kizer. Knowing it can have success run- ning all of its base concepts makes it much easier for the Notre Dame coaches to design and call its run concepts, regardless of who plays quarterback. PASS GAME SIMILARITIES There are a few more variances in the pass game. Both quarterbacks can get the ball downfield, but Kizer is better throwing post and corner routes while Zaire is better throwing the vertical routes. Zaire is also bet- ter throwing the out and comeback routes, but both are effective over the middle. Notre Dame's staff will have to tweak its pass game depending on who is in the game, but the overall concepts it wants to run each week will work no matter who is directing the offense. For a play caller, this makes the tran- sition between the two quarterbacks seamless, at least in the run game. If the Irish offense is hot running a spe- cific set of run plays, the play calling does not need to change depending on the quarterback. If a matchup against a particular opponent calls for an em- phasis on certain concepts over oth- ers, both quarterbacks can effectively execute those concepts. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT No matter how hard the coaches try, there are too many stylistic differ- ences to be able to do the exact same thing with both quarterbacks. Most obvious, Kizer is a 6-4½, 230-pound right-handed quarterback while Zaire is a 6-0, 225-pound left-handed quarterback. Zaire and Kizer have different per- sonalities and leadership styles. The two also have different cadence ten- dencies and voice inflection. Notre Dame's staff must organize their practices in a way that allows all the starters and rotation players to get comfortable with both quar- terbacks' cadence styles. This is espe- cially true for the offensive linemen. It's not coincidence that Notre Dame had five false starts in Kizer 's first career start against Georgia Tech. Getting the receivers comfortable with both of their throwing tenden- cies is also important. Zaire's passes tend to travel up while Kizer's tend to have a more downward trajectory. If the pass catchers aren't used to both players the result will be more drops, and the pass game timing will never get where it needs to be. If the Irish can find a way to make it succeed early in the season, it can work long term. The more the rest of the offense gets comfortable with both quarterbacks, the better chance it has to last the entire season. If it doesn't work early on, Kelly and the staff will have to settle on one quarterback. ✦ Success With A Two-Quarterback Offense CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and the offensive staff must find a way to make a two- quarterback system work. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason 2016