Notre Dame football: No frontrunner has emerged yet in QB battle
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — About the only thing Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly can say for certain about the quarterback position on the eve of practice is he doesn't expect DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire to play at the same time.
He wasn't willing to rule out much more than that Friday as he fielded repeated questions about different scenarios on the eve of practice beginning Saturday in Culver, 30 miles south of campus.
"I have not taken anything off the table, honestly," Kelly said. "If you go down the roster ... and look at the playmakers on offense, two of them are on the quarterback side. So I have to look at all of those, and factor every one of those in."
It's not the answer Kizer or Zaire want to hear, but both realize it is the reality they are facing. Each is focused only on being the starter.
"This is what I came here to do, to compete and try to be the Notre Dame quarterback," Kizer said. "I'm pretty happy with where I stand. Now it's time to go out there and prove it."
Kizer, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander, led the Irish to nine victories, completing 211 of 335 passes for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Zaire, a 6-foot, 225-pound left-hander, won the starting job last year and completed 19 of 22 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening 38-3 win over Texas, with his 86.4 percent completion rate ranking second in school history for a single game. But he broke his right ankle a week later against Virginia and watched as Kizer led the Irish to a 10-3 finish and a No. 11 ranking.
Zaire said he's not focusing on being the best quarterback at Notre Dame; he's working to be the best quarterback in college football.
"That's what I'm focused on and I know that's going to translate into wins for the team," he said.
Kelly, entering his seventh season as coach of the Irish, said he doesn't have a timetable for picking a starter before the Sept. 4 opener at Texas. He said depth at quarterback is what leads him to believe the Irish can vie for a playoff spot this season despite losing experience at receiver and along the offensive line.
"I think in college football any time you have a quarterback — quarterbacks, we're full with quarterbacks — that gives you a fighting chance right out of the gate," he said.
Kelly isn't worried that letting the competition continue could hurt the offense, saying the pair aren't that different and he knows what he wants the offense to look like.
"They have some strengths and weaknesses within the offense that we'll tweak just a little bit, but there's no overhaul of the offense if one is in vs. the other. There's just some play selections that would be different," he said. "So we can still lay down our entire installation seamlessly."