Many expect there to be a quarterback competition between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. Here I’ll explain why Kizer is the man for the job.
After Malik Zaire went down for the year with a broken ankle in the Virginia game last season there was much speculation that the Irish offense would take a step backwards with DeShone Kizer running the show. Kizer quickly shut those critics up as he led the Irish to a 10-3 record and a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls. The sophomore threw for 2,884 yards, 21 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He also was the team’s third leading rusher with 520 yards and 10 touchdowns. In terms of total offense the Irish had the 27th best offense in the country according to CFBStats.com, and much of that can be credited to how well Kizer played. One could argue the Irish offense was as good as it was because of Kizer.
Another reason for Kizer is his clutchness factor. On the road in games against Clemson and Stanford, it was Kizer leading the Irish back in the second half. He led the Irish to 19 fourth quarter points and were a two-point conversion away of forcing overtime. Kizer arguably outplayed his counterpart, Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. Kizer threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns. He also chipped in with 55 rushing yards and a touchdown run. Watson on the other hand threw for 84 yards and one touchdown on 10-21 passing. Watson did hurt the Irish on the ground as he ran for 93 yards and a touchdown. Yes, Kizer did make some costly turnovers but some could be attributed to the playing condition, but ultimately it was Kizer who was the one who kept the Irish in the game.
Then against Stanford Kizer had one of his best performances of the year. He threw for 234 yards and touchdown and he also ran for 128 yards and touchdown. He led the Irish on a 15 play, 88 yard drive late in the fourth quarter to give the Irish the lead. If it wasn’t for the spotty defense the Irish played, we could be talking about how Kizer led Irish to a playoff birth. He almost singlehandedly kept the Irish in the game against Stanford. By the end of the year Notre Dame was playing as well as they were on offense because of DeShone Kizer, not in spite of him.
After the season I would hear a few Irish fans tell me that if Zaire was healthy all year the Irish would have beat Clemson and Stanford and would have been in the playoff. And I just wonder to myself, “how can you say that? Did you not see Kizer play?”. For not ever playing a single snap before last season, Kizer came in and played better than anyone could have expected from him. One thing you want to see is how a player develops over the course of the season. It’s safe to say Kizer developed in a positive way and it’ll be exciting to see how he progresses from year one to year two.
Kizer now has more in game experience than Zaire. It is unfortunate what happened to Zaire because by all accounts he seems to be a great teammate and competitor, but thats the way game works sometimes. Kizer got his opportunity when Zaire went down, and ran away and hid with it.
Another thing to like about Kizer is that he seems has that “it” factor. His “it” factor has been apparent since his first appearance against Virginia. He threw that 39-yard bomb to Will Fuller in the game’s final seconds to give the Irish the victory. He never seems to get too rattled when struggling and never seems to get too high when things are going great. He’s about as even-keeled as they come. Whatever “it” is, Kizer has it.
There are a few thing Kizer needs to improve on such as some of his decision making skills and red zone efficiency, but those are things that can easily be fixed as he gets matures.
Expect there to be somewhat of a quarterback competition in the spring and fall, but Kizer will have the upper-hand. Kizer will have to perform poorly and Zaire will need to play at high level for him to take away the starting job from Kizer. Nevertheless Brian Kelly is going to a have a good problem this spring and fall with two very capable quarterbacks at his disposal.