Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

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

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20 SEPT. 19, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout and current analyst, was in Austin, Texas, for Kizer's game against the Longhorns. In front of about 10 pro scouts, Kizer demonstrated a skill set that left them believers. "He belongs squarely in the dis- cussion, and that opinion isn't based solely on his performance against the Longhorns," wrote Jeremiah, noting Kizer 's prototypical NFL size, arm strength and mobility. Lance Zierlein of had an interesting comparison for Kizer: for- mer Tennessee Titans Pro Bowler Steve McNair. "What really stands out to me is the mental makeup and toughness of Kizer in comparison to McNair," Zi- erlein wrote. "McNair was extremely difficult to rattle and Kizer appears to operate with that same confidence and calm. While McNair could beat teams with his legs, he looked to win from the pocket and I believe Kizer has that same trait." Kizer was asked how he's able to balance the growing hype surrounding his success while still staying focused on winning games. "With the schedule that we have right up on that board over there, if you're focused on anything else other than the opponent on Saturday, you're going to lose every game," said Kizer, referencing the team's 2016 schedule posted in the Isban Auditorium. "We play a really tough schedule and we're going to make sure we're locked in on that game and going 1-0 each week. "There's too much going on as far as my social and academic life as well as football for me to get caught up in any- thing other than the mission, which is to go out and try and go 1-0 each week. It's really easy to put all that stuff in the back where you're not listening to it." Meanwhile, his on-field perfor- mances are beginning to come through more loud and clear. ✦ Prior to officially announcing a few days after the sea‑ son opener at Texas that junior DeShone Kizer would be the definitive starter at quarterback, head coach Brian Kelly tacitly sent a message to senior No. 2 man Malik Zaire about the need to remain a positive teammate and continue to prepare like he is going to be a starter — just like Kizer did last year before Zaire's injury. During the loss to Texas when the dramatic separation at quarterback had occurred between him and Kizer, Zaire's sideline optics indicated an individual conspicu‑ ously upset at having lost his place in a heretofore rota‑ tion. Kelly said he would have been more concerned if Zaire wasn't upset — as long as he's still mentally pre‑ pared at a moment's notice. "Your attitude has to be such that whoever the No. 2 is — whether he's the No. 2 quarterback or the No. 2 run‑ ning back — you're one play away from being in there," Kelly began. "So you can't let your teammates down and you can't let yourself down … preparing the way you need to lead your football team. "If you can't accept the role then you need to move out of the way and let somebody go into that role that can accept it and prepare themselves accordingly, so when they are called upon they're ready to play. "Whether he has his helmet on or off, he's got to be engaged and ready to go at a moment's notice. He's got to prepare himself as if he's the starter." From a purely physical skills standpoint, 2010‑13 Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees probably might not rank among the top 50 at his position for the Fighting Irish, but he is the gold standard as far as remaining engaged and pos‑ sessing the mental toughness and preparation for anything. The 2010‑11 starter was supplanted in the 2012 start‑ ing lineup by sophomore Everett Golson — but he still helped save four close games decided by seven points or less (one in overtime) with his efforts off the bench dur‑ ing a 12‑0 regular season. It seemed the top concern about Kizer after the Texas game would be whether the poised and strapping 6‑4½, 230‑pound specimen would be off to the NFL upon the conclusion of his junior year. That too is as premature as writing off Zaire's chances to be a valued contributor at some point this season. The top gun became clear with Kizer, but Zaire abso‑ lutely must remain engaged and a positive teammate — as he was in 2015 — if the 2016 campaign is to bounce back from an inauspicious start. — Lou Somogyi Malik Zaire Must Be 'Ready To Go At A Moment's Notice' Kizer has prototypical NFL size and a strong arm, drawing a comparison to former Tennessee Titans star Steve McNair. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA The challenge for Zaire now is to remain engaged as the backup signal- caller. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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