Teams & Conferences

Breaking Down The Notre Dame Quarterback Battle

Who’ll be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback following the offseason battle? There are two good options and no wrong choice. Or is there?

Notre Dame was 6-0 in the middle of the 2014 season, and had the puck on its stick with a chance to beat defending national champion Florida State in Tallahassee.

An apparent game-winning touchdown pass was called back on a penalty and the Irish lost a 31-27 heartbreaker. Had they pulled it out, quarterback Everett Golson would’ve been everyone’s midseason Heisman pick thanks to a magical first half of the year.

While he followed it up with a brilliant 315-yard passing game against Navy, and threw for 446 yards against Arizona State, he couldn’t stop turning the ball over. Notre Dame went on an ugly run of five losses in the final six regular season games, and the coaching staff made a change.

Malik Zaire entered late in the ugly, 49-14 loss to USC, and got the call to start against LSU in a bowl game few thought the Irish had a shot at winning. He completed 12-of-15 passes for 96 yards and a score, ran for 96 yards and a score on 22 carries, and the Irish came away with a stunning win. The program had its starting quarterback for 2015.

Zaire was going to be the man, Golson transferred to Florida State, and a new era of explosive offense was about to begin in South Bend.

All was right with the world in the blowout opening win over Texas. From there Zaire struggled against Virginia, completing just 7-of-18 passes, and suffered an even bigger blow by getting knocked out for the game, and subsequently the season, with an ankle injury.

This would’ve been the perfect time for Golson to step in and save the season, but with the former star taking his talents to Tallahassee, it was up to freshman DeShone Kizer to save the season.

Thrown into the fire, Kizer completed 8-of-12 passes for 92 yards and two scores to pull out the thrilling, 34-27 win.

Helped by a great ground game – and an NFL-caliber game breaker in Fuller leading a loaded receiving corps – Kizer was fantastic. He took the Irish to a 10-1 record, with the only loss a late battle at No. 1 Clemson, and was just one win away from having a fantastic College Football Playoff case.

Kizer did what he needed to do against Stanford, throwing for 234 yards and a score, and running for what was very, very close to being a game-winning touchdown, but the Cardinal pulled it out over the Irish. Even so, and even with the blowout loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, Kizer did his part to be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback for the next three years.

But Zaire is back and healthy.

Zaire is the more dynamic of the two options, and while he didn’t look all that great in the spring game, and he didn’t quite turn it loose, he’s back to normal. The 6-0, 225-pound lefty is the type of playmaker who gives defenses fits, while the mobile 6-4, 230-pound Kizer has more of the next-level tools to potentially be developed into something truly amazing.

There’s no wrong answer.

Who’ll Be The Notre Dame Stating Quarterback?

To make this even crazier, Brandon Wimbush might be the most talented quarterback on the roster. And while he’s being sold on the idea that last year’s No. 3 option on the depth chart ended up saving the season, it’s a different story this time around.

Kelly knows how to juggle quarterbacks and get everyone involved, so look for both Kizer and Zaire to see plenty of time. This isn’t like the Zaire/Golson dynamic when both options had the same types of games, Kizer is just different enough to throw a curveball at defenses.

Expect Kizer to get the call for the opener against Texas, but with Zaire to have a few packages to get him into the game – or make it the other way around depending on who shines brightest in fall camp.