Brian Kelly Tabs Malik Zaire To Start For Notre Dame in Music City Bowl


Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly took his decision on a starter down to the wire, and the decision could be considered surprising. Redshirt freshman Malik Zaire gets the nod from Kelly, although Everett Golson is expected to see time as well. It will be Zaire’s first career start.

Golson had a good season when taking a quick glance at his numbers. 3,355 yards with 29 touchdowns, while rushing for 277 yards and eight more scores rushing. All while completing better than 60 percent of his passes. But it’s the 22 turnovers (14 interceptions, eight lost fumbles), all in the final nine games of the season.

With a defense that has been worn thin though injuries, the biggest concern against a strong LSU pass defense is not turning the ball over and keeping the defense off the field as much as possible. Zaire is more adept at the running game, and Kelly could institute some read option, as LSU has had troubles stopping mobile quarterbacks.

Kelly “opened” the quarterback competition in the spring, although most believed that was just formality as Golson returned from suspension with only one loss under his belt, that being in the BCS title game against Alabama in 2012. But Zaire on several occasions proclaimed he would win the job out of camp. His confidence can’t be overlooked, as he is a talented player, just lacking experience.

The move is surprising only in the fact that Kelly waited till now to make the change. With the struggles Golson showed avoiding turnovers, it’s a move long overdue. It was only in the last game of the season against USC that he finally made the switch, and zaire performed admirably, going 9-for-20 with 170 yards, while adding 18 rushing yards and a score.

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Zaire will come out of the tunnel the starter, but Kelly, as he has been known to do his entire coaching career, will use both signal-callers in the game. If the Irish can keep pace, and keep the defense off the field by controlling the clock, Zaire will see most of the snaps; likely making his case for the starter entering next year.